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Diagnosing & Treating Ectopic Pregnancy 

An ectopic pregnancy is a complication that occurs when a fertilized egg grows somewhere other than the uterus. It can result after natural conception or IVF. If you experience an ectopic pregnancy, you need to seek medical attention to avoid a life-threatening event. Early symptoms include pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding. Emergency symptoms include severe abdominal pain, lightheadedness, and fainting. Dr. Vicken Sahakian , Dr. Michele Evans , and Dr. Yvonne Yanqing Han in Los Angeles, CA, can diagnose and treat ectopic pregnancy with medication or a laparoscopic procedure.

A Closer Look at Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy most often occurs in a fallopian tube. This is known as a tubal pregnancy. However, ectopic pregnancies can also occur in other areas of the body, including the ovaries, abdominal cavity, and cervix. As a fertilized egg cannot survive outside of the uterus, ectopic pregnancies are non-viable. If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening, as it can cause the fallopian tube to rupture and result in heavy bleeding.

ectopic pregnancy illustration
An ectopic pregnancy that occurs in a fallopian tube is known as a tubal pregnancy.

Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy

Often, the first signs of an ectopic pregnancy are light vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain. As the egg continues to grow, symptoms will become more noticeable. You may experience severe pelvic pain or discomfort. If blood leaks from the fallopian tube, you may also feel shoulder pain or an urge to have a bowel movement. Should the fertilized egg grow too large, the fallopian tube may rupture, resulting in heavy abdominal bleeding. Symptoms of a ruptured fallopian tube can range from lightheadedness to shock and must be addressed immediately to avoid life-threatening consequences.

Causes of Ectopic Pregnancy

Most commonly, an ectopic pregnancy occurs because a fallopian tube is misshapen or inflamed. Hormonal imbalances and abnormal egg development can also cause ectopic pregnancy.

Your doctor will run blood tests and perform an ultrasound to confirm an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy Diagnosis

Your doctor will first perform a pelvic exam to identify areas of tenderness. To make a firm diagnosis, you will need to undergo blood tests and an ultrasound.

Blood Tests

A human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) blood test will confirm that you are pregnant. Your hCG may be checked every few days until ultrasound testing can confirm whether or not you have an ectopic pregnancy. This usually happens between the fifth and sixth week of pregnancy. Your doctor may also perform a complete blood count to check for anemia or other signs of blood loss.

Ultrasound

This machine uses sound waves to create images of your reproductive tract and can be used to confirm a pregnancy or check for internal bleeding. Your doctor may perform an abdominal ultrasound, which involves moving a wandlike device over the belly, or a transvaginal ultrasound, which involves inserting a wand-shaped device into the vagina. 

Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment

To prevent life-threatening complications, the ectopic tissue needs to be removed. Treatment may include medication or laparoscopic surgery, depending on your symptoms and the point at which the ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed.

Medication

If an ectopic pregnancy is discovered in the early stages and bleeding is minor, it can be treated with a medication called methotrexate. This injectable medicine halts cell growth and dissolves existing cells. After the injection, additional hCG test will be run to determine the effectiveness of the treatment.

Laparoscopic Procedure 

During a laparoscopic procedure, your doctor will create a small incision near or in the navel. They will then thread a thin tube equipped with a camera and light (laparoscope) through the incision to view the tubal area. After removing the ectopic tissue, the tube may either be repaired or removed.

Learn More about Ectopic Pregnancy

If you are experiencing pelvic plain accompanied by vaginal bleeding and you think you might be pregnant, you should call us right away to schedule an appointment. Timely treatment is critical when it comes to an ectopic pregnancy. You can reach out to us at any one of our Los Angeles area locations, or you can send us a message online for less urgent matters.

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