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Help! My Doctor Said it Might be Ectopic

a blog by Grey Fox

If you are newly pregnant and hearing the word "ectopic" uttered from your doctor's lips, you are most likely pretty scared, or even terrified. That's normal. Ectopic pregnancies are very scary. Here are some facts and helpful information to help get you through it.

If your doctor suspects your pregnancy could be ectopic - but cannot say for sure - it is probably because your beta HCG levels are either low or not doubling every 48-72 hours. Or both.

Unfortunately, beta HCG can only tell us so much. Not all ectopics have low or non-doubling betas. And low or non-doubling betas can also signify an impending miscarriage. It's even possible, but not likely, that you have a normal pregnancy that's just getting off to a slow start. There's just no way to know for sure what is going on during the early stages. Modern medicine still has quite a few limitations when it comes to the making and growing of tiny humans.

You are probably dying for an ultrasound so you can know for sure what is going on and wondering why your doctor won't do one.

The reason is simple - nothing will show on an ultrasound before beta HCG levels reach 1000-1500. No matter how far along you are in terms of weeks/days, the pregnancy, wherever it may be located, is simply too small to see until the HCG levels rise. So there is no point in doing an ultrasound before then.

What your doctor WILL (and should) do is continue to follow your beta HCG levels to see if they start to drop on their own (indicating a miscarriage) or if they continue to rise but not normally (indicating ectopic). Depending on how your beta HCG levels rise or drop will help your doctor make a diagnosis. If they do rise above 1500 then most likely you will get that ultrasound to look for the pregnancy and confirm its location.

Unfortunately, all you can do is wait. And, yes, that sucks. Monumentally. But it's the only thing to do. You can pass the time looking for support (Fertile Thoughts is a good place to start). Many of us have gone through it, in some cases more than once, and know exactly how you're feeling. The wait feels interminable. But I promise you it will eventually end.

Be sure to report any other symptoms you might experience during this long wait to your doctor. It can help make the diagnosis come faster.

Common symptoms of an ectopic are:

  • abdominal/pelvic pain, particularly if it is located on one side or in one specific spot
  • vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • lightheadedness or dizziness and/or fainting
  • shoulder pain

Many, if not all, of these symptoms are not unique to ectopic pregnancy. And some women never have any symptoms at all.

If your doctor does make the diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy, please check out What To Expect With An Ectopic Pregnancy for more information about what to expect for treatment.

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