An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that implants anywhere outside of the inner lining of the uterus. While the fallopian tubes are the most common location for an ectopic pregnancy, it can also implant in the abdominal cavity or cervix.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), ectopic pregnancies occur in about 1 out of every 50 pregnancies. The signs and symptoms include: sharp waves of pain in the abdomen, pelvis, shoulder, or neck, severe pain that occurs on one side of the abdomen, light to heavy vaginal spotting or bleeding, and dizziness or fainting.
An ectopic pregnancy can be diagnosed by either a transvaginal ultrasound or a blood test to measure the amount of hCG hormone and progesterone present during the pregnancy. If it does not follow a specific trend or correlate to the ultrasound images, this can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.
If a woman is having severe symptoms, such as significant pain or bleeding, there may not be enough time to complete all these steps. The fallopian tube could rupture in extreme cases, causing severe internal bleeding. A doctor will then perform an emergency surgery to provide immediate treatment.