Ectopic pregnancy results when a fertilised egg becomes implanted anywhere outside the cavity of the womb (uterus). Most ectopic pregnancies develop in the fallopian tubes but occasionally in the ovary. As the fallopian tube is not large enough to accommodate a growing embryo the thin wall of the fallopian tube will stretch causing pain in the lower abdomen and often vaginal bleeding. This bleeding occurs from the thickened lining of the womb. If not diagnosed and treated the tube can rupture, causing severe abdominal bleeding.
Symptoms of ectopic pregnancies can vary and can include the following:
- positive pregnancy test (as there is a production of the pregnancy hormone from the ectopic pregnancy)
- abdominal pain
- vaginal bleeding
If an ultrasound scan shows an empty uterus but the pregnancy test is positive the possibilities are an ectopic pregnancy, a very early intrauterine pregnancy or miscarriage. The ectopic pregnancy may appear as a clear gestation sac outside the uterus or as a mass.
An ectopic pregnancy is a serious complication and usually surgery is required.