The reason for ectopic pregnancies is unknown, but damage caused to the fallopian tube could prevent the egg from reaching the uterus. The likelihood for an ectopic pregnancy is higher with the following risk factors:
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- Previous ectopic pregnancy (15-20% probability)
- Pregnancy through IVF or fertility drugs
- Smoking cigarettes
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Certain STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhoea
- Ages 35 or older
- Pregnancy after a tubal ligation
- Previous abdominal or pelvic surgery (such as removing an ovarian cyst)
- Prior C-section (known as caesarean scar ectopics, its rare, but the risk is higher with more than one C-section)
Women may still have an ectopic pregnancy despite not having any of the above risk factors.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy
Initially the symptoms are typical of early pregnancy like breast tenderness, fatigue and nausea but as the pregnancy progresses, women may experience:
- Sudden severe and sharp pain in the pelvic or abdomen areas.
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Shoulder pain.
- Weakness or experiencing dizziness.
- Fainting or feeling like you’re about to faint.
If your symptoms include mild pelvic pain and spotting it may be normal symptoms of early pregnancy. However, if you’re experiencing heavy bleeding accompanied by severe pelvic pain or feeling lightheaded or dizzy, you need to go to the emergency room immediately. That’s usually a sign of a late-stage ectopic pregnancy and you are at high risk of bursting the fallopian tube. By seeking treatment during early stages of an ectopic pregnancy, you are more likely of saving your fallopian tube and possibly your life.
Unfortunately, there is no definite way of preventing an ectopic pregnancy. However, being aware of the possible risk factors and avoiding conditions that may lead to scarring of your fallopian tubes can reduce the risk. If you’re pregnant and suspect you may be at risk, speak to your doctor about your concerns.