Ectopic pregnancy is the most common form of pregnancy outside the uterus (eccyesis). During an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilised egg cell implants in the fallopian tube. This happens in around 1 % of all pregnancies. An ectopic pregnancy must be terminated as quickly as possible as severe complications could occur.
The fertilised egg usually travels through the fallopian tube and implants itself in the uterus. In rare cases, it already implants itself in the fallopian tube. Growths after inflammation of the fallopian tube (adnexitis) or endometriosis increase the risk of nidation (implantation) of the egg cell in the fallopian tube. The embryo usually dies at a very early stage. However, a pregnancy sometime also develops from it. Sooner or later, the fallopian tube will be damaged or torn as a result of the growth of the foetus, which can cause life-threatening haemorrhaging.
As an ectopic pregnancy initially develops like a normal pregnancy, the usual pregnancy symptoms occur: positive pregnancy test, breast tenderness, fatigue and nausea. Warning signs of an ectopic pregnancy are cramp-like or stabbing pains in the lower abdomen. Sometimes the patient experiences spotting and menstrual bleeding upon absence of the regular menstrual period. If internal bleeding occurs, this results in shock symptoms such as pallor, sweating, weak pulse and falling blood pressure. If these symptoms occur, the bleeding must be immediately stopped with surgery.
However, an ectopic pregnancy is usually diagnosed before severe complications occur, such as during the first gynaecological ultrasound which takes place after a positive pregnancy test.
In a very early stage, an ectopic pregnancy can sometimes be ended by administering an infusion of medication. However, it must usually be removed surgically via a laparoscopy.