If your doctor suspects an ectopic pregnancy, he or she might do a pelvic exam to check for pain, tenderness, or a mass in the fallopian tube or ovary. A physical exam alone usually isn't enough to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy, however. The diagnosis is typically confirmed with blood tests and imaging studies, such as an ultrasound.
With a standard ultrasound, high-frequency sound waves are directed at the tissues in the abdominal area. During early pregnancy, however, the uterus and fallopian tubes are closer to the vagina than to the abdominal surface. The ultrasound will likely be done using a wandlike device placed in your vagina (transvaginal ultrasound).
Sometimes it's too soon to detect a pregnancy through ultrasound. If the diagnosis is in question, your doctor might monitor your condition with blood tests until the ectopic pregnancy can be confirmed or ruled out through ultrasound — usually by four to five weeks after conception.
In an emergency situation — if you're bleeding heavily, for example — an ectopic pregnancy might be diagnosed and treated surgically.
Jan. 20, 2015
- Frequently asked questions. Pregnancy FAQ 0155. Ectopic pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Ectopic-Pregnancy. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014.
- Cunningham FG, et al. Williams Obstetrics. 24th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2014. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookid=1057. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014.
- Tulandi T. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management of ectopic pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014.
- Tulandi T. Incidence, risk factors, and pathology of ectopic pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014.
- Harms RW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 15, 2014.