What Is An Ectopic Pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy in which the fetus develops outside the womb, typically in the fallopian tube. In rare cases (around 1 in 80 pregnancies a year), the pregnancy could attach to the ovary, the abdominal wall or other abdominal organs.
An ectopic pregnancy is life-threatening and requires emergency medical treatment – visit your nearest Accident and Emergency Centre as soon as possible. It is not possible to save this type of pregnancy.
What Are The Symptoms?
Some ectopic pregnancies can be detected before any symptoms, such as pain, occur. Symptoms, where they occur, usually appear between 4 and 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The main symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain (usually low down on one side)
- Vaginal bleeding/watery brown discharge
- Shoulder tip pain
- Discomfort in passing urine/ opening bowels
When Should I Seek Emergency Help?
In all cases of pregnancy with severe abdominal pain, emergency care from your nearest Accident and Emergency Centre should be sought as soon as possible.
What Are The Causes Of An Ectopic Pregnancy?
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – a pelvic infection that has passed through the vagina and into the pelvic organs
- Previous ectopic pregnancy – there is a risk of around 10% of having another ectopic pregnancy
- Previous tubal surgery – unsuccessful female sterilization or other tubal surgery can cause a partial blockage
- Fertility treatment
- Increased age
What Is The Treatment For An Ectopic Pregnancy?
Sometimes if there are no symptoms, it is possible to use medication to stop the growth of the pregnancy. The patient is then monitored carefully to ensure that the treatment is successful.
Keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) under a general anaesthetic can be used to remove the fertilized egg and the damaged fallopian tube.
Trying For Another Baby
The loss of a pregnancy through an ectopic can be devastating and many women feel the sense of grief.
Most women will get pregnant again after an ectopic, even if they’ve had a tube removed. 65% manage to achieve a pregnancy within 18 months but occasionally IVF may be necessary. To read more on the fertility treatments Dr Penman offers, please follow this link.