The ovaries in the reproductive system of a woman will release an egg every month to the fallopian tube where it will stay for about 24 hours. During intercourse, the egg is supposed to become fertilized within the tube by fusing with the strongest sperm that has breached the membrane first. After staying in the fallopian tube for around 5 days, the fertilized egg will then travel to the uterus and will attach itself to the uterine lining. This process is known as implantation. Then, it will continue to grow in the uterus to form the baby. This is the case the process that can be expected during a normal pregnancy.

When it comes to an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg will implant itself in the fallopian tube or somewhere else outside the womb, instead of the uterus. This can result in fatal consequences and require immediate action. Furthermore, the eggs are implanted in the fallopian tube in most of these cases and hence, ectopic pregnancy is also known as tubal pregnancy. Note that fallopian tubes are designed for the eggs and sperms to become fertilized and traverse, and does not provide the right conditions to grow a baby. Hence, a fertilized egg will not be able to develop properly in the tube. According to many studies conducted in the field, one out of every 50 pregnancies turns out to be an ectopic one.

The Symptoms

Just like a normal pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy as well happens in the first weeks of pregnancy. Hence, the chances for you to notice the signs and even understand that you are pregnant are really less at the beginning. Even though common to many other health conditions, there are some symptoms that indicate an ectopic pregnancy. The most prominent ones are pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding. Other red flags that points to an ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Sharp abdominal cramps
  • Painful vomiting and nausea
  • Pain in the neck, shoulder, or rectum
  • Pain on one side of the body
  • Fatigue or dizziness

Further, a tubal pregnancy can result in fallopian tube rupture after a certain point of time. In that case, the pregnant woman will experience extreme pain either with or without bleeding. Sometimes, there are chances for internal bleeding as well. However, it is highly recommended to consult a doctor if you experience intense vaginal bleeding followed by fainting, lightheadedness, severe pain at one side of your tummy, or shoulder pain.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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