It normally takes a newly fertilized ovum about 7days to reach the cavity of the uterus after which it embeds itself in the endometrium (the lining of the inner surface of the uterus). If for some reason the ovum has not reached the cavity of the uterus by the 7th day after fertilization it will embed within the fallopian tube and become an ectopic pregnancy, sometimes usually caused by blockage in the fallopian tube.
An ectopic pregnancy simply defined is a pregnancy that implants outside the uterus. This kind of pregnancy is rare and occurs approximately once in every 300 pregnancies.
An ectopic pregnancy, however, cannot survive because it lacks the thick protective muscular walls of the uterus and does not have the required blood supply.
In the early stages an ectopic pregnancy cannot be differentiated from a pregnancy which is situated normally within the cavity of the uterus. It produces the same hormones as does the pregnancy within the uterus and therefore the woman has exactly the same symptoms as she would have if the pregnancy was situated normally in the uterus.
This condition requires urgent medical attention and operation. It may be necessary to remove the pregnancy and the tube carrying it, or occasionally the pregnancy is removed and the fallopian tube is repaired.
Possible signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are.
The first indication that something might be going wrong may be the onset of pain low down in one side of the abdomen. This is due to the fallopian tube contracting in response to the stretching of the growing pregnancy within the lumen (cavity).
- Hemorrhage (Bleeding).
Between the 6th and 12th weeks of pregnancy some bleeding occurs either from the outer end of the fallopian tube or from the fallopian tube itself because the pregnancy has ruptured its wall. This results in severe or acute lower abdominal discomfort, which is usually followed shortly by vaginal bleeding.
- Vomiting and nausea.
This usually occurs in about 15-50 % of affected women and cannot be readily distinguished from nausea and vomiting associated with real morning sickness.
- Fainting and dizziness.
This also occurs in some women, especially if the tube ruptures.
- Signs of shock.
Most women show signs of shock (rapid, weak pulse, clammy skin and fainting) also if the fallopian tube ruptures.
- Feeling of rectal pressure and shoulder pain which is rare in a normal pregnancy is a symptom of an ectopic pregnancy.
Women who have had one fallopian tube removed due to a first ectopic pregnancy are naturally worried that there might be a re-occurrence, and the other fallopian tube might be affected. These is very rare though, but if you have already had one ectopic pregnancy, as soon as you are pregnant again, make sure you see a doctor so that an earlier check up and analysis will be done to prevent any unfavorable situations.