Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms | Everyday Health
The initial symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are the same as those of a normally progressing pregnancy: Missed period Nausea and occasional vomiting Breast tenderness Fatigue Signs of Ectopic Pregnancy
If the pregnancy is in the fallopian tube, as most are, the following sign and symptoms develop as the growing embryo presses against the inflexible walls of the fallopian tube: Sharp, stabbing pain in the pelvis, abdomen, and possibly shoulder and neck. The pain may come and go and may vary in intensity. Vaginal bleeding Nausea Dizziness and light-headedness
Ectopic pregnancies that are not in the fallopian tube (such as an abdominal pregnancy) may cause more generalized abdominal pain. When to Seek Help
An ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening, so it's important to seek medical help if you notice any of the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy.
Any type of ectopic pregnancy can cause heavy internal bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy located in the fallopian tube can rupture the tube, affecting future fertility.
Virtually all ectopic pregnancies are not viable, meaning they cannot result in a healthy baby, and need to be ended to protect the health of the pregnant woman. Ectopic Pregnancy Diagnosis
When an ectopic pregnancy is suspected, the first step may be to do a pregnancy test, or qualitative hCG test, if the woman has not already had a positive pregnancy test.
A qualitative hCG detects human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the mother's urine or blood. The hormone is produced in the placenta starting shortly after implantation of the fertilized egg.
A pregnancy test can detect hCG levels within 10 days of a missed period, and some tests can detect it even earlier, within a week of conception.
A negative pregnancy test does not absolutely rule out pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy; it may simply be too early to detect hCG in the mother's urine or blood.
A doctor may also order one or more quantitative hCG tests to help diagnose (or rule out) an ectopic pregnancy. A quantitative hCG test measures the level of hCG in the blood.
In an ectopic pregnancy, the blood level of hCG is usually lower than in a normally developing pregnancy and also rises at a slower-than-normal rate. Using Ultrasound for Diagnosis
Another step in diagnosing a suspected ectopic pregnancy is using ultrasound to locate the implanted embryo.
Sometimes a transvaginal ultrasound, in which a thin probe is introduced into the vagina and sound waves are used to create images of internal structures, is performed.
If an embryo is located outside the uterus, a treatment plan is made based on the mother's overall health, where the embryo is located, and the mother's hCG levels (a falling level can indicate that the pregnancy is resolving on its own).
If an embryo is not located, doctors continue to monitor the pregnancy until a diagnosis can be made.
In some cases the diagnosis will be confirmed by inserting a laparoscope — a very small viewing instrument — into the abdomen through a small incision below the navel. Sources Ectopic Pregnancy; Merck Manual. Ectopic Pregnancy; Mayo Clinic. hCG; LabTestsOnline.
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