In a healthy pregnancy, a sperm enters (fertilizes) an egg while the egg is in one of your fallopian tubes. Your fallopian tubes connect your ovaries (where your eggs are stored) with your uterus (womb). The fertilized egg, which is in a sac, then moves into your uterus and attaches there to grow.
Ectopic Pregnancy: A Mislocated Pregnancy
In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg doesn’t attach in your uterus. Instead, it attaches somewhere else. It may attach in one of your fallopian tubes, in the wall of your uterus, or in your belly outside your uterus.
The fertilized egg can't grow correctly outside of your uterus
The sac holding the egg will burst, usually after about 6 to 16 weeks from when you got pregnant
When the sac bursts, you bleed a lot
The baby (fetus) doesn't survive
Ectopic pregnancies can cause lower belly pain and vaginal bleeding
If not treated, an ectopic pregnancy is life threatening
Sometimes symptoms start before you even know you're pregnant
To save your life, doctors do surgery or give you a medicine to shrink the ectopic pregnancy
If the sac containing the egg hasn't burst, you may not have symptoms, or you may have:
If the sac holding the egg bursts, you may have:
Severe bleeding can cause fainting, sweating, or a light-headed feeling. Your blood pressure could become dangerously low (a condition called shock), and you could die.
If you're of childbearing age and have lower belly pain or vaginal bleeding, faint, or go into shock, your doctor will do a pregnancy test. If the pregnancy test is positive or you know you're pregnant:
The doctor will do an ultrasound inside of your vagina to locate the pregnancy
You'll have a blood test to measure the level of pregnancy hormone in your blood
Ultrasound uses sound waves to create moving pictures of your insides. Usually the doctor can see whether the pregnancy is in your uterus or not. However, if it's early in your pregnancy, the doctor may not be able to locate the fetus with the ultrasound. Then your doctor will decide what to do based on your symptoms and how much pregnancy hormone is in your blood.
If your symptoms are severe, the doctor may make a small cut just below your belly button and insert a viewing tube (laparoscope) to look for the ectopic pregnancy.
Usually, they’ll do surgery to remove the ectopic pregnancy. Most often they do the surgery through a thin tube (laparoscope). If possible, your doctor will remove only the ectopic pregnancy.
If the ectopic pregnancy is in your fallopian tube, sometimes the doctor might have to remove the fallopian tube too.