Common symptoms are lower abdominal pain, often on one side at the beginning, light bleeding, nausea and vomiting, dizziness or weakness, and/or pain in the shoulder or rectum. If the fallopian tube ruptures, the pain and/or internal bleeding can be severe, enough to cause fainting. Ectopic pregnancy is a life threatening condition.
Although recognized by physicians from at least the tenth century, ectopic pregnancies can be difficult to diagnose, and sometimes evaluation is made with ultrasound or laparoscopy. If you suspect that you have an ectopic pregnancy, go immediately to your doctor's office or an emergency room, since this problem goes from bad to worse quickly. Treatment varies from drugs to surgery.
The rate of ectopic pregnancy increased more than fourfold between 1970 and 1990, in part because of damage to women's reproductive systems caused by sexually transmitted diseases, in particular chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as pelvic inflammatory disease which is often, but not always, sexually transmitted.
Other causes of ectopic pregnancy include a previous ectopic pregnancy, the use of an intrauterine device (IUD), especially the Progestasert, congenital abnormality of the fallopian tubes, the Pill (minipills, progestogen-only oral contraceptives), prior pelvic or abdominal surgery, and a failed tubal sterilization. Other risk factors associated with ectopic pregnancy are smoking, regular douching, and fertility drugs, in vitro fertilization, and/or GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer).