At PFCLA, we understand how heartbreaking an ectopic pregnancy can be and are medically licensed to diagnose and treat this risk with compassion and support.
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is a complication that occurs when the embryo grows outside the uterus cavity. Because a fertilized egg cannot survive outside of the uterus, an ectopic pregnancy is sadly non-viable and will not result in a successful pregnancy or delivery. If you or your partner experience this risk, immediate medical attention is required to avoid the life-threatening symptoms.
Our physicians can expertly diagnose and treat ectopic pregnancy with medication or a laparoscopic procedure.
Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy usually occurs within the fallopian tube (known as a tubal pregnancy). However, ectopic pregnancies can also develop in other areas of the female reproductive system, including:
- The ovaries
- The abdominal cavity
- The cervix
Often, the first signs of an ectopic pregnancy are:
- Light vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic pain or discomfort
As the egg continues to grow in the wrong location, symptoms will become more severe. If left untreated, the condition results in:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Blood leaks from the fallopian tube, causing shoulder pain or an urge to have a bowel movement
- A ruptured fallopian tube
A ruptured fallopian tube causes heavy abdominal bleeding and must be addressed immediately to avoid life-threatening consequences.
Ectopic pregnancy can be a scary and emotional experience, which is why PFCLA is dedicated to providing you compassionate care that prioritizes your health, wellbeing and fertility.
The causes of ectopic pregnancy
Most commonly, an ectopic pregnancy occurs from a misshapen or inflamed fallopian tube. Hormonal imbalances and abnormal egg development can also cause ectopic pregnancy.
Diagnosing ectopic pregnancy
To diagnose an ectopic pregnancy, your doctor will first perform a pelvic exam to identify areas of tenderness. To make a firm diagnosis, you may need to undergo blood tests and an ultrasound.
Your pregnancy will be confirmed with a human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) blood test. Your hCG levels may be checked every few days until the ultrasound test can confirm if you have an ectopic pregnancy. This typically takes place 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.
An abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create images of your reproductive tract, will be used to confirm a pregnancy or check for internal bleeding. Your doctor will perform one of these two ultrasounds depending on your symptoms:
- An abdominal ultrasound, which involves moving a wand-like device over the belly
- A transvaginal ultrasound, which involves inserting a wand-shaped device into the vagina
Treatment options for ectopic pregnancy
To prevent life-threatening complications, your doctor will remove the ectopic tissue. Treatment options include medication or laparoscopic surgery, depending on your symptoms and the stage at which the ectopic pregnancy has progressed.
If an ectopic pregnancy is discovered in the early stages and bleeding is minor, it can be treated with medication called methotrexate. This injectable medicine halts cell growth and dissolves existing cells. After the injection, your physician will run an additional hCG test to determine the effectiveness of the treatment.
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.