Pregnancy begins at conception, when an egg is fertilized by the sperm. Conception usually occurs in the fallopian tube. In a healthy pregnancy the zygote implants somewhere in the uterine wall. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg (zygote) most commonly implants in the fallopian tube. However, ectopic pregnancy can also occur in the ovary, the abdomen, and the cervical canal (the opening from the uterus to the vaginal canal). The phrases tubal pregnancy, ovarian pregnancy, cervical pregnancy, and abdominal pregnancy refer to the specific area of an ectopic pregnancy.1
In the early stages, symptoms may be the same as with any normal pregnancy, including missed period, swollen or tender breasts, increased fatigue, nausea, and increased urination. However, as the pregnancy progresses, the embryo may outgrow its the surroundings causing pelvic or abdominal pain and sometimes light-headedness or fainting. It’s important to always follow up a positive home pregnancy test with your health care professional to ensure that the pregnancy is normal. An ultrasound can be performed to confirm the presence of a fetal sac in the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancies are not viable, meaning they cannot naturally continue, and if not addressed could cause serious harm or death to both the mother and child. Surgery is required to remove the fetus and repair or remove any damaged surrounding tissues. If not caught early, ectopic pregnancies can cause internal hemorrhaging and may be fatal. Fortunately, ectopic pregnancies are rare and occur in only approximately 1% of pregnancies (Ectopic Risk).
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1 Resolve. 1310 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144-1731. (617) 623-0744. http://www.resolve.org. Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.