What Everyone Should Know About This Scary Pregnancy Condition

Photo: Erik Pendzich/REX/Shutterstock.
This week, on an episode of Love & Hip Hop: New York, it was revealed that Grammy-nominated singer Remy Ma had suffered an ectopic pregnancy and would have to have it surgically removed. Although ectopic pregnancies are rare, they are also very serious — and don't come with many obvious signs until they're emergencies. So it's crucial for everyone with a uterus to know how to spot one, whether you're hoping to become pregnant or not.

Under normal conditions, a fertilized egg will travel through the fallopian tube and implant in the uterus. But if the egg's movement is blocked or slowed down (by scar tissue from a previous surgery, for instance), it will attach to tissue outside of the uterus, causing an ectopic pregnancy. Most often, this happens in one of the fallopian tubes.

Because an ectopic pregnancy frequently occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy, you may not even know you're pregnant yet when it happens. That makes it even more crucial to know the symptoms — even if you're not currently trying to conceive.

At first, those symptoms are the same as any other pregnancy: a missed period, nausea, and breast tenderness, the Mayo Clinic explains. The first signs that suggest there's something wrong are pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding, which may be very light and have a pink or orange tinge to it (as many of our commenters have pointed out). But because that bleeding might happen a week or two after your missed period, you might think it's just your period coming late or implantation bleeding, which occurs in normal pregnancies as well.

However, as things progress, the growing area around the egg may rupture, causing much more serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention. Those symptoms include severe abdominal pain and blood loss leading to lightheadedness and dangerously low blood pressure.

There's no way for an ectopic pregnancy to continue because the fertilized egg can't survive outside of the uterus. So, even if your symptoms aren't that serious right now, you will still need hasty treatment. It all starts with getting blood tests and an ultrasound to confirm what's happening.

If you do, indeed, have an ectopic pregnancy, your doctor will recommend a treatment based on how far along it is and how serious your symptoms are. If it's caught early, you may be prescribed a drug that will stop the pregnancy (such as methotrexate) and you'll be closely monitored. In other cases, you may need surgery to remove the ectopic tissue. If your bleeding isn't too bad, this can be done non-invasively. But if your bleeding is severe, you may need emergency surgery, which may involve removing one of the fallopian tubes.

In an emotional video, Remy Ma made it clear that she and her husband intend on having a child at some point, despite being told that her emergency surgery would make it very difficult for her to conceive naturally.

Having one ectopic pregnancy does increase your chances of having another, depending on your age and the original reason for the ectopic pregnancy. And there are some cases in which future pregnancies may be especially challenging (e.g. if your first ectopic pregnancy left scar tissue). But that doesn't mean it's impossible to give birth later: According to MedLine, about one third of people who have had an ectopic pregnancy go on to have kids.

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to avoid ectopic pregnancies either. Although the chances of becoming pregnant when you have an IUD are extremely low, if you do become pregnant, it's more likely to be ectopic than those who choose other forms of birth control.

So know what's normal for you, know the signs of an ectopic pregnancy — and be prepared to act quickly if you see them.
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