Ectopic or tubal pregnancy is a real and dangerous effect of pregnancy that can terminate a woman’s ability to have further pregnancies as well as possibly terminating her own life. Therefore, knowing the signs of it may be more important that you think.
Ectopic pregnancy occurs within 1% of all pregnancies and are the cause of 9% of all pregnancy-related deaths. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself in tissue other than the uterine wall; those that implant within the fallopian tubes are referred to as tubal pregnancies. As the fetus continues to grow and attempts to obtain a sufficient supply of blood in an area that is not designed for such, that area becomes damaged and causes bleeding from vessels and arteries. About half of all tubal pregnancies resolve themselves when the fetus is expelled on its own. In the remaining pregnancies where the fetus has not expelled, the fallopian tubes rupture. This causes pain and major bleeding, which could lead to permanent damage to the fallopian tubes and/or death of the woman.
There are several causes such as women who have had tubal surgeries or ligations, multiple sexual partners, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, reversal of tubal sterilization and smoking. Tubal pregnancies are higher in older women and women who use vaginal douches. However, half of all tubal pregnancies occur without any rhyme or reason.
There are many signs of tubal pregnancies. The early signs are benign and basically symptom free. Most cases occur between 5 and 8 weeks after conception. Early signs include a strong stomach-like or cramp-like pain in the lower abdomen along with inflammation of that area. Other symptoms may include pain while urinating or having a bowel movement, mild vaginal bleeding. Later signs include pain and bleeding, both internal from the affected tube and external from falling progesterone levels. At this junction, it may be difficult to distinguish these symptoms as a normal pregnancy, a miscarriage or a tubal pregnancy. Tubal pregnancies are often misdiagnosed as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and can be ruled out as PID with a positive pregnancy test since it is very rare to find pregnancy and PID occurring at the same time.
If not resolved in time, more severe symptoms may occur due to heavy internal bleeding. These more severe signs include severe abdominal, lower back or pelvic pain and cramping along with tenderness that is specific to one side of the pelvis. A very bad sign of tubal pregnancies is shoulder pain which is brought on by excessive blood traveling up through the abdominal cavity and obstructing the diaphragm. This last sign means that an extreme amount of internal bleeding has occurred and that there is little time remaining to save the woman’s life.
The signs of tubal pregnancy can range anywhere from no symptoms to extreme pain and tenderness and shoulder pain. Diagnosing it early can truly be a life saver.