The misinterpreted ectopic pregnancy symptoms are a rare case. What should you pay attention to in order to avoid terrible complications?
If the fertilized egg cell fastens in the ovary, abdominal cavity, fallopian tube, or somewhere else rather than the uterus such a pregnancy is called ectopic. It makes childbearing impossible and an expectant mother can’t give birth with such a diagnosis.
In obstetrics, the diagnosis of “ectopic pregnancy” always sounds menacing because it’s dangerous for the pregnant woman’s state of health and its consequences are unpredictable. Unfortunately, sometimes an ectopic pregnancy takes an especially “insidious” course: its symptoms may stay hidden for a long time and then suddenly manifest, causing an emergency situation.
The Dangers of Ectopic Pregnancy
So, why is ectopic pregnancy so dangerous? When the fertilized egg due to some reason fastens, for example, to the mucous membrane of the fallopian tube and begins to develop it will sooner or later cause the tube to increase in diameter. Considering that the fallopian tubes’ structure can’t handle such a load, in a few weeks the stretching will become critical and ectopic pregnancy symptoms will emerge.
If the woman doesn’t notice these signs in time the membrane of the fallopian tube will rupture and the blood, the mucus, and the ovum will get into the abdominal cavity which should be absolutely sterile – as a result, the abdominal cavity becomes infected, the poor woman experiences horrible, insufferable pains, and peritonitis develops. Besides, the vascular damage often leads to massive bleeding in the abdominal cavity. It is a critical condition that requires immediate reanimation: the patient undergoes treatment in an intensive care unit under constant medical supervision.
In the case of an ovarian or an abdominal pregnancy, the situation is similar. These ectopic pregnancy symptoms, of course, will differ from a tubal pregnancy, but peritonitis will still be a threat.
Consult a Doctor When You Notice Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms!
Luckily, not every ectopic pregnancy case turns into an emergency. In more than 60% of cases, such ectopic pregnancy symptoms as bleeding or pains force the woman to go to the doctor before there are any complications. The early detection of this pathology and surgical or pharmacological treatment is the best outcome of such a situation.
It should be noted that while a few decades ago the affected organ, as well as the uterus, would be surgically removed, the contemporary medical practice uses sparing methods which on several occasions allow the female reproductive system to be saved. Of course, the earlier an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed the better the chances of successful therapy are. That’s why it’s very important for every woman to know and be able to recognize the first ectopic pregnancy symptoms.
It’s also interesting that in approximately one-third of the cases the complications occur even if the woman feels perfectly healthy. But most often the patients simply don’t pay enough attention to the early ectopic pregnancy symptoms or don’t attach much importance to them.
The Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms
You should be wary if you feel any pain in the lower abdomen during the early pregnancy stages – it’s the most common ectopic pregnancy sign. The painful sensations usually appear on one side of your abdomen where the affected tube is situated, but sometimes (in the case of an abdominal or cervical pregnancy) you feel pain in the middle of your abdomen. These pains often intensify when you change the position of your body, walk or turn from side to side.
The term of ectopic pregnancy symptoms’ manifestation depends on where the fetus is situated. If it’s developing in the widest part of the fallopian tube the painful sensations start during the 8th week of pregnancy; if the fetus fastens in the thinnest part of the tube the woman feels pain earlier, in the 5th–6th week. If it’s an ovarian or abdominal ectopic pregnancy there can be no symptoms during the first 4 weeks. A cervical pregnancy (the implantation occurs in the uterine cervix) is rarely accompanied by pain, so it can go unnoticed for a long time.
The early ectopic pregnancy symptoms include spots. Heavy and continuous bleedings are caused by a cervical pregnancy because the implantation happens in the area where a lot of blood vessels are situated. Sometimes the blood loss is so great it becomes dangerous for a woman’s life, besides, when the embryo is situated in the cervix the risk is so high hysterectomy may be needed.
A tubal pregnancy is the most common cause. Its symptoms also include bleeding which is a sign of a ruptured fallopian tube. The best possible outcome of such a pregnancy is tubal miscarriage when the tube isn’t ruptured but the embryo spontaneously unfastens – it’s always accompanied by vaginal bleeding.
Ways of Diagnosing Ectopic Pregnancy
There are other ways of detecting ectopic pregnancy. It’s a well-known fact that a normal pregnancy changes female hormonal background considerably. During an ectopic pregnancy, the hormonal levels are not as high as they should be. When a woman uses an express pregnancy test she may notice that the second line is faint. A faint line may be evidence of a low hCG level. We recommend doing an hCG blood test in order to make the situation clear – if the embryo is situated in the uterus the concentration of hCG correlates with the term of pregnancy and increases by the day, and deviations from the norm are a sign of an abnormal position of the embryo.
The most illustrative method used by medical experts to detect the position of the embryo, however, is ultrasonic examination when a doctor confirms the fetal bladder has fastened to the uterine wall as it should have with the help of a vaginal probe. By the way, the embryo situated in the abdominal cavity or in the ovary is very hard to detect, but when the fetal bladder isn’t detected inside of the uterus and the pregnancy test is positive it becomes evident that the diagnosis is an ectopic pregnancy.
There are the most critical symptoms of ectopic pregnancy: they occur regardless of the place where the fetal bladder has fastened and reveal serious damage to the internal organs – tearing of the fallopian tube, the surface of the ovary, the intestines, or the urinary bladder if it’s an abdominal pregnancy. The internal bleeding starts – it’s life-threatening for a pregnant woman. Such bleeding causes severe pains in the lower abdomen, sudden or gradually increasing weakness, skin pallor, sweating, dizziness and fainting, vaginal bleeding. A woman in such a condition requires immediate hospitalization.
Speaking about the main causes of ectopic pregnancy, we should pay attention to those most women have no idea about, such as, for example, inactive spermatozoa or inborn constitutional specificity of the reproductive organs. However, statistically ectopic pregnancy is a more common occurrence among women with a genetic predisposition – their mothers, aunts, or grandmothers had the same problems – or among women who had abortions, suffered from ovarian inflammatory diseases that have led to tissue intergrowth, scars, unevenness of the walls, and fallopian tubes’ bends.
Besides, you should take into consideration that the risk of pathologies increases with age and ectopic pregnancy symptoms in women older than 35 should attract twice as much attention. The aforementioned risk groups should follow the medical recommendation to undergo a pelvic ultrasound two weeks after positive pregnancy test results in order to confirm that the embryo is situated in the uterine cavity. Besides, it’s advisable to perform a pelvic ultrasound in the 3rd-4th week of pregnancy if there are any signs of ectopic pregnancy. Such a preventive measure will help to avoid possible complications, and if the ultrasound confirms the normal position of the embryo you’ll be sure your baby is perfectly healthy.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.