Everything You Need To Know About Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is a complication that can be extremely dangerous for a pregnant person if not treated. While ectopic pregnancies are not very common (happening in about 2% of pregnancies), women who are sexually active should know what they are, what symptoms to watch out for, and the importance of verifying the health and viability of a new pregnancy.

What Is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

During a normal, healthy pregnancy, the woman’s egg gets fertilized and attaches to the lining of the uterus, where it stays to develop and grow for the 9 months of pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants somewhere outside of the uterus. In most ectopic pregnancies, the egg implants in one of the fallopian tubes, which is the part of the body that carries the egg from the ovaries to the uterus. Less commonly, the egg can also become implanted in other areas such as the abdomen, ovary or cervix. 

How To Determine if a Pregnancy Is Ectopic

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are very similar to those of the early stages of a healthy pregnancy. A pregnancy test will still show as positive and many of the symptoms will be similar to what you would experience with a pregnancy in the uterus. These symptoms typically begin to develop between the 4th and 12th weeks of pregnancy:

  • Nausea or morning sickness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Missed period 
  • Fatigue
  • Positive pregnancy test

Many women who experience an ectopic pregnancy won’t have any early signs or symptoms \and may not notice an issue until more serious symptoms begin to develop as the fertilized egg continues to grow outside of the uterus. These symptoms include:

  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting

While symptoms can certainly help to clue you in to the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy, the most accurate way to determine for certain if your pregnancy is ectopic is to have an ultrasound. An ultrasound will be able to show whether or not the pregnancy is located in the uterus and is progressing as it should be. 

If you are in need of an ultrasound or are searching for pregnancy help, Care Net Milwaukee offers free ultrasounds performed by one of our medical professionals on staff. 

Risk Factors

Ectopic pregnancies can happen to anyone, however there are some factors that could potentially increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy:

  • Previous ectopic pregnancy
  • Previous pelvic or abdominal surgery
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
  • An IUD in place at the time of conception
  • Endometriosis
  • A history of smoking tobacco
  • A history of infertility or going through infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Pregnancy that occurs after you’ve gotten your tubes tied

While these risk factors have shown a correlation with women who have had ectopic pregnancies, up to 50% of women who have had an ectopic pregnancy did not have any known risk factors. If you are sexually active, it’s important to be aware of any changes that are happening in your body and to schedule an ultrasound right away if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy.

Can an Ectopic Pregnancy Be Carried to Full Term?

The uterus is the only organ in the body that is able to support a growing baby; it is flexible and able to expand as the pregnancy progresses. The fallopian tubes and other organs are not capable of supporting a pregnancy’s growth. If a pregnancy outside of the uterus goes untreated while the pregnancy continues to grow, the fallopian tube may rupture or damage may occur to other organs, causing internal bleeding and possibly death. 

Once a pregnancy begins outside of the uterus, it is not possible for the pregnancy to get relocated to the uterus, therefore the pregnancy cannot safely be carried to full term. Once diagnosed, immediate treatment is required to stop any continued growth of the fertilized egg and to end the ectopic pregnancy. For this reason, it is extremely important for you to confirm the health and viability of your pregnancy as early as possible, even if you are not considering keeping the pregnancy.

Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancies are treated with the use of either medication or surgery, depending on factors such as your health, the size of the fetus, and the symptoms you are experiencing. If the pregnancy is diagnosed early enough, medication will likely be used to stop the pregnancy. In other cases, surgery may be required to remove the pregnancy before it becomes too large.

Is the Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy Considered Abortion?

Particularly after the overturn of Roe v Wade, there is a lot of confusion around the treatment of ectopic pregnancies and abortion. While treating an ectopic pregnancy does require a pregnancy to be removed, it is not considered an induced abortion.The medication and procedures that are used to treat ectopic pregnancies are also very different from the procedures used to perform abortions. 

Ectopic pregnancies are not viable, meaning they are not able to grow to full-term. Because of this and the danger to the health and life of the mother, ectopic pregnancies are considered medical emergencies and treatment is encouraged and necessary in order to prevent life-threatening complications.

How Care Net Milwaukee Can Help

While ectopic pregnancies are not common, they are certainly possible and happen in about 1 in every 50 pregnancies. At Care Net Milwaukee, our team is trained and ready to help you in ensuring your pregnancy is safe and that you have the support and resources you need. If you’d like additional information about ectopic pregnancy, are in need of an ultrasound or would like help navigating any other pregnancy-related issues, contact us via e-mail at advocate@carenetmilwaukee.com or text 414-962-2212 to schedule an appointment. 



Care Net has been serving Milwaukee area women since 1985 and through this blog, we hope to continue sharing with the greater community peace, hope, and information related to pregnancy.