What are the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy?

Quels sont les symptômes de la grossesse extra-utérine ?

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that develops outside the uterine cavity. Under normal circumstances, an ovum is fertilized in the Fallopian tube and then implants in the uterus. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the egg fails to reach the uterus and develops in a fallopian tube (tubal pregnancy, which occurs in 96% to 98% of ectopic pregnancies), in an ovary, on the cervix or in the abdomen.

What's more, in an ectopic pregnancy, the fetus cannot develop. It sometimes dies of its own accord, or an operation is required to halt its growth and remove it. In fact, if the fertilized egg is not removed and the pregnancy continues, medical intervention is mandatory. Treatment is then urgently required, as the growth of the pregnancy can lead to the bursting of the Fallopian tube, causing internal haemorrhage. An ectopic pregnancy is still the leading cause of death for women in the 1st trimester of pregnancy. There are around 2 ectopic pregnancies for every 100 births, and one ectopic pregnancy for every 13 miscarriages.

What are the causes and risk factors of an ectopic pregnancy?

The exact cause of an ectopic pregnancy is still unknown. However, it is believed that an ectopic pregnancy can be explained by the fact that a fertilized egg that is too large has not been able to travel all the way down the Fallopian tube to reach the uterus, and therefore gets stuck there. This is known as a tubal pregnancy.

Sometimes, the spermatozoon has fertilized the egg when it was not in the fallopian tube. The egg then implants in an ovary, the peritoneal cavity or the fallopian tube. In many cases, it is an anomaly in the fallopian tube that has blocked the migration of the egg.

It is thought that risk factors such as :

  • STDs

  • A history of salpingitis (infection of the fallopian tubes following a chlamydia infection)

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (fallopian tubes, ovaries or uterus). Often caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia infection)

  • Repeated curettage or aspiration

  • Active or passive smoking (estimated to cause 1 in 5 EPs)

  • A history of EP

  • Surgery to overcome infertility diethylstilbestrol (synthetic hormone prescribed to women in France between 1950 and 1977 during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage, prematurity, etc.)

  • Mother's age during pregnancy

  • Medically assisted reproduction (MAP)

  • IUD (in very rare cases)

  • Tubal, pelvic or abdominal surgery

  • abortion

What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

At the start of an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg develops normally.

Symptoms include

  • Delayed menstruation

  • Unusual and/or irregular periods

  • Discomfort

  • Dark bleeding

  • Pelvic pain

  • Shoulder pain

During an ectopic pregnancy, a woman experiences the same symptoms as during a conventional pregnancy (nausea, vomiting, intense fatigue, breast pain, etc.), but sometimes the EP is asymptomatic.

Nevertheless, if the EP is not detected in time, the fertilized egg does not develop in the uterus, so it does not have the space and nutrients needed to continue its development. It will gradually detach itself, leading to cataclysmic haemorrhage, and become encysted in the fallopian tube, which in turn will distend and sometimes rupture, causing internal haemorrhage.

In the event of rupture, the woman may experience :

  • Irregular, often dark, heavy bleeding, in which case we advise you to wear protection or highly absorbent menstrual pants.

  • Cramps or pelvic pain of varying intensity, sometimes felt from the shoulder to the knee, with successive episodes of discomfort due to blood loss and a drop in blood pressure,

  • Pallor or dizziness due to significant blood loss,

  • Intense pain on one side of the lower abdomen,

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea

If the fallopian tubes rupture:

  • Intense abdominal pain and heavy vaginal bleeding.

  • A drop in blood pressure leading to symptoms of shock, such as paleness, sweating and fainting.

In rare cases, the fallopian tube does not burst, but cracks into the peritoneal cavity. Blood then slowly drains out and collects behind the uterus, where it coagulates and pushes adjacent organs. Symptoms include

  • Paleness

  • Pelvic pain

  • Urinary and rectal problems

  • Unusual bleeding

If you experience any of these symptoms, rush to hospital or call an ambulance.

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The information contained in the articles on www-elia-lingerie.com is general information only. Although reviewed by health professionals, this information is not error-free, does not constitute health advice or consultation, and is not intended to provide a diagnosis or suggest a course of treatment. Under no circumstances may this information be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor.