We spoke to one of Europe's leading fertility specialists, Dr. Santamaria of IVI Fertility Clinic, to explain everything there is to know about ectopic pregnancies: from why they happen, to how you treat them, and any lasting effects.
1. It literally translates as "out of place pregnancy."
An ectopic pregnancy is one that takes place outside the womb, and therefore comes with various health implications for both the mother and the child. "It is a pregnancy that has implanted outside of the uterine cavity," Dr. Santamaria explains. "This mostly occurs in the Fallopian tubes but can also occur in the ovaries, inside the abdominal cavity, and even in other locations of the uterus, such as cervix or in the uterine wall."
2. It sounds scary, but it's not uncommon.
According to the National Health Service, around one in every eighty to ninety pregnancies results in an ectopic pregnancy. Despite this, it appears that the majority of women are still unaware of the condition—including its causes and the symptoms typically experienced.
3. You might not even realize you're having one.
Geordie Shore's Charlotte Crosby recently experienced a miscarriage due to an ectopic pregnancy, but has spoken about how she initially assumed the discomfort she was experiencing was due to menstrual pains and cramps.
4. It can cause some unusual pains.
"Aside from the regular pregnancy symptoms such as a missed period, symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can involve tummy pain, vaginal bleeding and sometimes 'shoulder tip pain' (an unusual pain felt where your shoulder ends and your arm begins)" notes Dr. Santamaria. And they're most likely to occur anywhere between the 4th and 12th weeks of pregnancy.
5. It can be caused by something as simple as an infection.
While it's not explicitly known what causes an ectopic pregnancy to occur, medical experts think it usually happens following "a dysfunction in the movement of the Fallopian tubes, generally caused by a previous infection or inflammation".
6. But hormones could be to blame, too.
And that's something that can be hard to control. Dr. Santamaria explains that "endometriosis, hormonal imbalances or abdominal surgeries have also been linked to causing ectopic pregnancies."
7. Unfortunately, it's never possible to save the pregnancy.
And sometimes, the pregnancy will stop on its own, so women experiencing it have to be very carefully monitored by doctors.
8. It can require surgery.
But not always. In many cases, a drug called Metrotrexate is given to the woman, and is often an effective way to treat it. However, if this fails, if the pregnancy is further along, or if there is abdominal bleeding due to a rupture of the tubes, then doctors will look to surgery. "In these particular cases, ectopic pregnancies may represent a life-threatening problem and will require an emergency surgical intervention," says Dr. Santamaria.
9. It doesn't often affect a woman's fertility.
But it has been known, says our medical expert: "If an ectopic pregnancy is treated in the initial stages and only medical treatment is required, usually it doesn't affect a woman's fertility. However, having had an ectopic pregnancy might indicate that there is a problem in the Fallopian tubes that may led to infertility," Dr. Santamaria said.
10. The location of the pregnancy can often determine the severity of the treatment.
As Dr. Santamaria explains, "surgical treatment for ectopic pregnancies usually consists of removing the affected tube or ovary. In some cases, when an ectopic pregnancy is implanted in the cervix, uterus or in the uterine wall [as opposed to the fallopian tubes], the removal of the uterus is necessary which would lead to permanent infertility."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.