Pregnancy, ideally, is a joyous and exciting time. But reality and what’s ideal don’t always match. Sometimes a fertilized egg doesn’t travel down your fallopian tubes and into the uterus, where it implants itself in the blood-rich lining that nourishes its growth.
Instead, the zygote (fertilized egg) stays in the fallopian tube where it was conceived or travels elsewhere outside the uterus. Although the zygote could lodge in scar tissue, the area where the fallopian tubes join the uterus, or even the bowels, in 90% of cases, an ectopic pregnancy takes place in the fallopian tubes.
A fallopian tube can’t expand sufficiently to accommodate embryonic growth. Neither fallopian tubes nor other non-uterine tissues have the resources to nourish a baby, either. Without treatment, the embryo could rupture your tubes or cause other types of hemorrhaging that put your life at risk.
At Elite Gynecology in New York City, our caring and knowledgeable gynecologists, Molly McBride, MD, and Tamara Guichard, MD, want you to enjoy your pregnancy. But they also advise you to stay alert to problems, particularly signs of an ectopic pregnancy, to safeguard your life.
Only about 2% of pregnancies in the United States are ectopic pregnancies. However, if you experience any of the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy — whether you think you’re pregnant or not — you should contact us immediately.
How do you know if you have an unsustainable, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, and what should you do about it? The answers are here.
You experience pelvic pain
Pelvic pain is associated with a variety of conditions that could occur during pregnancy, including ectopic pregnancy. In fact, other than the normal symptoms of pregnancy — such as tender breasts and a positive pregnancy test — slight pelvic pain could be the first indication of an ectopic pregnancy.
Any pelvic pain should be evaluated by your OB/GYN. However, strong warning signs for ectopic pregnancy include:
- Mild, one-sided pelvic pain
- Mild abdominal or pelvic pain
- Sudden, severe abdominal or pelvic pain
If you have sudden, severe pain, you could be hemorrhaging and should go straight to the emergency room.
Your shoulder hurts
Should pain could be another indication that you could have life-threatening internal bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy usually causes pain in the very tip of the shoulder — where your arm starts and your shoulder ends.
You probably never experienced this type of shoulder pain before. It’s different from the pain of sleeping awkwardly on your shoulder or that caused by stress. It also tends to be sharp and sudden.
You’re bleeding abnormally
Some slight spotting during pregnancy is normal. However, if you’re bleeding continuously after a positive pregnancy test, or if the blood is either brown, black, or watery, you should call us right away.
Even if you don’t know that you’re pregnant, spotting and unusual vaginal bleeding could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. It commonly occurs before you even think of taking a pregnancy test. Always see a gynecologist if you have abnormal bleeding or bleeding outside of your period.
You have bladder or bowel problems
Both menstruation and pregnancy may cause alterations in your bowel patterns. However, signs that your body may be dealing with an ectopic pregnancy include:
- Pain when defecating
- Pain when urinating
- Sharp or shooting vaginal pain
Even if you’re not aware that you’re pregnant, we give you a pregnancy test when evaluating pain or bowel problems, due to their association with ectopic pregnancy.
You feel dizzy or faint
Feeling dizzy, faint, or confused is always a warning sign that should be taken seriously. If you actually do faint, see a doctor to find out why.
If have an ectopic pregnancy, you could already be bleeding internally. Have somebody take you to the emergency room and call our office if you experience problems thinking or staying conscious. Serious symptoms include:
- Feeling lightheaded
- Feeling sick
- Looking pale
- Very slow or rapid pulse
In the United States, only 50 women per year die from an ectopic pregnancy. Early treatment and removal of the zygote have lowered the death rate in ectopic pregnancies.
If you think there may be a chance that you have an ectopic pregnancy — whether due to pelvic pain or other symptoms — either get to the emergency room or call us right away. Contact our office nearest you — in Midtown East, Murray Hill, New York City, or Forest Hills, New York. You can also use our online appointment button.