What Are the Signs of a Ruptured Ectopic Pregnancy?

Recognizing the Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy Before it Ruptures

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A ruptured ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency in which a fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterus where a normal pregnancy gestates. Usually, an ectopic pregnancy is situated in one of the fallopian tubes, and as it grows, it can cause the tube gets to tear or burst. This results in dangerous internal bleeding.

It is important to note that an ectopic pregnancy is not able to develop into a healthy pregnancy or baby, and treating the mother to avoid risks and complications is paramount.

Signs and Symptoms of a Ruptured Ectopic Pregnancy

Identifying the presence of an ectopic pregnancy before it ruptures is the goal. Signs of an ectopic pregnancy include some of the same symptoms as early pregnancy, such as nausea, tiredness and breast tenderness. However, there are additional signs that may indicate the pregnancy is ectopic, including:

When an ectopic pregnancy causes a rupture, there are additional symptoms. Any of the following warrant an immediate visit to the emergency room:

  • Sudden, severe abdominal or pelvic pain

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Pain in the lower back or shoulder area

What Causes an Ectopic Pregnancy

Certain people may be more at risk than others of experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. Damage to the fallopian tubes is thought to be the cause of most ectopic pregnancies, because scarring in the tube prevents the normal passage of the fertilized egg through the tube and into the uterus where a healthy pregnancy takes place.

Damage to the fallopian tubes is more common among women who have:

Diagnosing a Ruptured Ectopic Pregnancy

Tests to identify an ectopic pregnancy, whether ruptured or not, may include:

  • A pregnancy test

  • An ultrasound

  • A test of specific levels of pregnancy hormones in the bloodstream

  • Taking a sample of uterine tissue through a procedure known as dilation and curettage, or D&C

  • Laparoscopic surgery to examine the inside of the abdomen

Treating a Ruptured Ectopic Pregnancy

Almost all ectopic pregnancies will require surgery during which either the pregnancy only is removed from the tube or the entire tube is removed. In ruptured ectopic pregnancy cases where a lot of blood has been lost, the patient may also require a blood transfusion.

If you are in early pregnancy and notice that you have any signs of ectopic pregnancy at all, ruptured or not, it is a wise move to call your doctor for a checkup -- but please be aware that a ruptured ectopic pregnancy is a true medical emergency and not something to be trifled with.

When in doubt about whether this is what is going on, please go to the emergency room right away.


Ectopic and Molar Pregnancy. March of Dimes. Accessed: May 24, 2009. http://www.marchofdimes.com/professionals/14332_1189.asp

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