Ectopic Pregnancy – Signs & Symptoms

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus – most commonly in the fallopian tube. The fallopian tube carries the egg from the ovaries to the uterus. Another commonly used term for an ectopic pregnancy is a tubal pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies occur in 19.7% of every 1000 pregnancies in North America. You will still get a positive pregnancy urine pregnancy test with an ectopic pregnancy but it can be a medical emergency and needs treatment right away to reduce your risk of complications and so you can have healthy future pregnancies. 

We do not always know what causes ectopic pregnancies but there are some conditions that can increase your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy:

  • Endometriosis 
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI)
  • Prior pelvic or abdominal surgery
  • Use of fertility medication or procedures
  • 35 years of age and older
  • Smoking
  • History of a previous ectopic pregnancy

Signs & Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

You will experience some of the same symptoms of a normal uterine pregnancy like nausea, breast tenderness and soreness and a positive pregnancy test. However, immediate medical care is needed if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Sharp stabbing or wave like abdomen, shoulder, or pelvic pain
  • Vaginal bleeding – can be light or heavy.
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling faint
  • Severe pain on one side of your abdomen

Many women with an ectopic pregnancy will complain of abdominal pain and spotting. 


An ectopic pregnancy can only be diagnosed through ultrasound and blood work to look for the developing gestational sac in the uterus. If you are experiencing severe symptoms there may not be enough time to complete both tests and surgery is needed immediately.

If the ectopic pregnancy is caught early and you are having minimal or no symptoms medical treatment with a medication called Methotrexate is used.  Surgical treatment is typically laparoscopic where the surgeon removes the fertilized egg/gestational sac from the fallopian tube or removes the entire fallopian tube. The technique and approach will be discussed with you in detail at the time of diagnosis. 

Every pregnancy brings hope, love, and connection. Give yourself time to grieve the loss of the pregnancy. Take the time you need to heal physically, emotionally, and mentally.

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