Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms

a nurse

An ectopic pregnancy is a sad situation to go through. A challenging time for anyone, especially when trying to navigate such a medical outcome.

This article goes through the causes, symptoms and treatments if you feel or know you are experiencing one.

What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

According to the NHS website, an ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg has implanted itself out of the womb. The most common place is one of the fallopian tubes (tube connecting the ovaries to the womb). But it can also attach itself to the abdominal cavity or cervix. When an egg becomes stuck in a fallopian tube, it, unfortunately, won’t develop into a baby and it can become serious to your health. When this happens, it isn’t possible to save the pregnancy… The egg will have to be removed using either medication or undergoing surgery (which is less likely).

What Are The Symptoms?

In the UK it’s estimated that 1 in every 90 pregnancies are ectopic. Sometimes ectopic pregnancies don’t cause any symptoms, so it’s not always detectable. However, there are some symptoms that may mean ectopic pregnancy. These tend to show between a woman’s 4th – 12th week of pregnancy.

The symptoms include

  • a missed period.
  • pain in the tip of your shoulder or neck – felt where your shoulder ends and the arm begins.
  • lower abdominal pain (normally only on one side) or in the pelvis.
  • light or heavy vaginal bleeding or brown discharge – this is normally different to a period bleed. It may be watery and will start and stop.
  • discomfort when going to the bathroom – such as pain or diarrhoea.
  • dizziness or fainting (this can happen if a fallopian tube has ruptured)

However, please bear in mind that these symptoms could be indicators of other problems, like stomach bugs. So, please either make an appointment with a GP or you can call 111 to gain further advice.

It’s important to get the right advice because ectopic pregnancies are serious. If left untreated it can result in a medical emergency. This can lead to complications to the mother’s health and future pregnancies. The longer it’s left untreated, the greater the risk.

Read more about ectopic pregnancy symptoms here

What Causes Ectopic Pregnancies?

It’s not 100% clear what causes an ectopic pregnancy and it can occur due to a variety of issues, such as a blocked fallopian tube. But here are the most associated issues that increase the risk –

  • inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes – likely from a pre-existing medical condition infection or surgery.
  • pelvic inflammatory disease – inflammation of the reproductive system.
  • hormonal factors.
  • fertility treatment such as IVF or taking medication to stimulate ovulation.
  • smoking.
  • increasing age (you are more at risk if you are aged between 35-40.

But remember, it’s difficult to prevent such a pregnancy and it’s not always preventable.

How is an Ectopic Pregnancy Treated?

There are 3 treatment options, but you may not be suitable for all these options, but your doctor will advise you:

Expectant management – 

This means waiting for the pregnancy to end by itself naturally (miscarriage), without treatment.

Medication –

The medication will be given via injection and is called Methotrexate. It’s a powerful medication that is used to stop the pregnancy from growing. If you are given medication, your fallopian tube is not removed.

Surgery –

This surgery is performed to remove the pregnancy. It will most likely be a keyhole surgery (laparoscopy), which is performed under general anaesthetic. It’s also possible that a fallopian tube may be removed to reduce the risk of another ectopic pregnancy.

What Happens After?

Although you can’t prevent an ectopic pregnancy, you can start trying to get pregnant again. It’s normally advised to wait for at least 3 – 5 months after medication, as it may harm a future foetus. Most women will be able to get pregnant again, even if they only have one fallopian tube. With 65% of women having a successful pregnancy within 18 months.

For many, the loss of a baby due to this is extremely difficult. It can feel like losing a loved one and the grief is heavy. But with the right support from family, friends, a partner or even some professional support, help is there to guide you through. It’s not uncommon for these feelings to last for a while, but it will improve with time.

Here are a few websites where you can find support groups for those who have been affected by pregnancy loss:

The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust

Ectopic Pregnancy Foundation

Miscarriage Association

If you want to read more about ectopic pregnancies, visit the NHS website for more information.
Or head on over to our blog site to find more pregnancy-related articles.

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