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What Is An Ectopic Pregnancy?
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Feb 01, 2002
Many women ask the question, “Is an ectopic pregnancy the same as a miscarriage?” The answer is that an ectopic pregnancy is quite different from a miscarriage. Ectopic literally means “out of place.” In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube, and begins to grow. About one in every 50 pregnancies is an ectopic.

Sadly, an ectopic pregnancy cannot result in the birth of a baby, and without early medical attention, the life of the mother can be endangered. Because an ectopic can be hard to diagnose, a woman will need to undergo several tests. These tests can include blood tests to measure the levels of hCG, a pregnancy hormone, and a vaginal or abdominal ultrasound.

Women with an ectopic pregnancy may start out with the usual pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and breast tenderness. Others will not have symptoms and may not realize there is a pregnancy. That is why it is so important to get early prenatal care. At the first sign of a missed menstrual period, be sure to take a home pregnancy test to determine if you are pregnant.

With an ectopic pregnancy, a woman may experience slight irregular bleeding, brownish in color. This bleeding may be followed by pain in the lower abdomen, felt mainly on one side. A woman with these symptoms should see a health care professional immediately. An ectopic pregnancy could turn into a frightening experience should the fallopian tube rupture.

If the physician finds an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo must be removed so that there is no danger to the mother’s life. If the embryo continues to grow inside the tube, it can cause the fallopian tube to rupture, resulting in life-threatening internal bleeding.

An ectopic pregnancy is usually removed surgically. A cancer drug, methotrexate, can be used in the first six weeks of pregnancy. This drug dissolves the pregnancy and saves the fallopian tube. A woman’s outlook for a future healthy pregnancy is usually quite good following an ectopic pregnancy. This is a concern that almost every woman has following an ectopic.

The grief issues related to an ectopic pregnancy can become somewhat complicated. So much has been lost in such a short period of time! There was barely time to learn of the joy of a pregnancy before the news is given that the pregnancy will never come to term. A father may have a difficult time not understanding the term “ectopic pregnancy” as he has to watch his wife whisked away to surgery. More grief is added to this type of pregnancy as fear comes into play. Grief issues associated with an ectopic pregnancy will be discussed in a separate article.

Ectopic pregnancy awareness is important. The number of ectopic pregnancies continues to increase every year. It is vitally important for a woman to understand that she must receive early intervention with an ectopic pregnancy because of the health dangers involved.

More detailed information on ectopic pregnancies can be received from your local chapter of the March of Dimes, or by visiting your health care professional. It is important to stay informed!

By understanding what an ectopic pregnancy is, should you experience such a loss, you will not be consumed by fear. You will understand what is happening to your body and to your baby. By being informed, you will take one step forward in your journey of grief from child loss.
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