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Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms and Treatment Options

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg fails to implant in the uterus. Sadly, these pregnancies are not viable and can actually result in a life-threatening medical situation. Seek medical treatment immediately if you suspect you are suffering from ectopic pregnancy symptoms.

What is ectopic pregnancy?

"The medical word ectopic is derived from the Latin and Greek for 'tissue out of place,'" says Dr. Amy M. Thompson, FACOG, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Most often, the pregnancy will implant in the Fallopian tubes, which is known as a tubal pregnancy. But an ectopic pregnancy can be cervical, ovarian or abdominal.

What are ectopic pregnancy symptoms?

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms are similar to symptoms of miscarriage.

"You may experience irregular bleeding and pelvic pain in the first trimester. Often these symptoms manifest around week five or six, although sometimes a woman is further along when the symptoms are first noticed," says Dr. Melissa Goist, an OB/GYN at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

According to WebMD, besides vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain, you might experience pain during intercourse or a pelvic exam, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, signs of shock or shoulder pain as the ectopic pregnancy progresses. Shoulder pain is caused by bleeding into the abdomen under the diaphragm.

If you experience bleeding and pain, call your doctor right away. The doctor will likely get some blood work and perform an ultrasound to rule out a miscarriage.

What are treatment options?

Two treatment options are available for an ectopic pregnancy. Your doctor will evaluate you to determine which is best for you.

  1. Methotrexate injection. Basically, this is a very small dose of chemotherapy, which will end the pregnancy.
  2. Surgery. This can sometimes be performed laparoscopically.

Are there long-term effects?

Your doctor will likely advise you to wait at least three months before it is safe to try to conceive again after an ectopic pregnancy.

But Dr. Thompson says the aftermath is more than physical. "An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy loss, just like a miscarriage," she says. "For many women, additional time is required to recover from the emotional loss."

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