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Check For Ectopic Pregnancy At An Early Stage

In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube and burrows itself into the uterine lining – a process called implantation – where the egg begins to grow. But in an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus – almost always in the fallopian tube itself – and begins to grow. This is sometimes referred to as a tubal pregnancy, although it is more correctly termed an ectopic pregnancy.

But whatever names you or your doctor use, this is a dangerous condition for the mother-to-be and a fatal condition for the would-be embryo, because the fallopian tube cannot support a pregnancy. As the fertilized egg begins to grow, it will stretch the fallopian tube, causing severe pain, as well as bleeding and hemorrhage when the tube bursts. The treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is always the removal of the affected tube. The earlier an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated and excessive blood loss and hemorrhaging can be avoided.

Any woman can have an ectopic pregnancy, but your health care provider can help you determine if you’re at a higher risk. For example, scarring in the fallopian tube is a common cause of ectopic pregnancies. You could have fallopian tube scarring if you have had surgery on your fallopian tubes – such as a tubal ligation or reversal – or if you’ve had pelvic inflammatory disease. Other abdominal surgeries, such as an appendectomy, surgery on the ovary, or a previous Caesarean section increase your risk only slightly.

In addition, if you get pregnant despite having had a tubal ligation, having an IUD in place or while taking progestin-only birth control pills, there’s an increased chance that your pregnancy will be ectopic. Having had a previous ectopic pregnancy means you’re at higher risk for a second ectopic pregnancy as well.

In the early days of pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy will have all the same signs and symptoms as a normal pregnancy. The woman will miss her period and may experience breast tenderness, nausea, fatigue and increased urination.

The first warning sign of an ectopic pregnancy is abdominal pain or pelvic pain. The pain may begin on one side, about 6 to 8 weeks after the woman misses her period. The pain usually spreads to her entire pelvic region. The woman may experience pain during intercourse or a pelvic exam and she may experience light or heavy vaginal bleeding. This internal bleeding may cause fainting and dizziness, and could cause shoulder pain resulting from bleeding under the diaphragm. The woman may also go into shock from blood loss.

An ectopic pregnancy may be discovered during a pelvic exam, as the uterus will be smaller than it should be and there will be tenderness in the fallopian tubes. Blood tests that measure levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone produced during pregnancy, can also indicate an ectopic pregnancy if the levels aren’t rising as they should. By the sixth to eighth week of pregnancy, the pregnancy should be visible in the uterus. If there are positive signs of pregnancy, such as a positive pregnancy test, and no signs of an embryo in the fetus, then the woman may need to be tested for an ectopic pregnancy.

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