What is an ectopic pregnancy, what are the signs, causes and symptoms and how does it feel?

An ectopic pregnancy can be a devastating event for expectant parents.

It affects one in 80 to 90 pregnancies, or 11,000 pregnancies a year, the NHS says.

The fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube, where the baby begins to grow


The fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube, where the baby begins to growPhoto credit: Getty

Tragically, an ectopic pregnancy means a baby cannot survive.

This can cause emotional stress for mom and dad.

In addition, it can threaten the life of the mother.

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus.

Fertilization, when the sperm meets the egg, takes place in a fallopian tube and normally the egg should travel to the uterus where it implants.

In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg gets stuck in a place where it can’t grow.

Most often this is due to the fallopian tubes, but it can also happen to the ovaries, which cervix (neck to uterus) or another organ in the pelvis.

Pregnancy usually lasts no longer than 12 weeks because symptoms appear before that.

Unfortunately, the pregnancy always has to be terminated. The egg is removed with surgery or medication.

What causes an ectopic pregnancy?

Often the causes of an ectopic pregnancy are not clear and for most women it is a one-off event, the charity Tommy’s says.

But there are several conditions that can increase the chances of it occurring.

These are:

  • Smoking
  • Older age (risk is highest in women aged 35-40)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (inflammation of the reproductive system, usually caused by an STI)
  • A history of ectopic pregnancies
  • If you have had fertility treatments such as IVF
  • Previous operation on the fallopian tubes
  • Getting pregnant while using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control

What are the signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

There are often no symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, and it is usually detected when a mother goes for a routine pregnancy scan.

If you have symptoms, they usually appear between the fourth and twelfthth month of pregnancy.

This can include:

  • vaginal bleeding
  • Brown watery discharge
  • Lower abdominal pain on one side
  • missed period
  • Discomfort when going to the toilet
  • pain in the tip of the shoulder

What is tip shoulder pain and how does it feel?

Shoulder tip pain occurs when you feel an unusual pain at the point where your arm and shoulder meet.

It is not known why this particular pain occurs after an ectopic pregnancy, but it is believed to be related to internal bleeding that can occur with the condition.

If you experience this pain, you should seek medical advice immediately.

What happens during and after the treatment?

Treatment for an ectopic pregnancy depends on a number of factors, but there are three main options.

Women who are in the early stages of pregnancy may be asked to wait for a miscarriage.

Some women are given a drug in the form of an injection to stop a pregnancy from developing.

Keyhole surgery can be used to remove the fertilized egg and sometimes the fallopian tube.

But if the fallopian tube is ruptured, this can cause it life-threatening bleeding. The woman needs emergency surgery.

Most women who have had an ectopic pregnancy can get pregnant againeven if they have had a fallopian tube removed, the NHS assures.

It states that a total of 65 percent of women achieve a successful pregnancy within 18 months of an ectopic pregnancy.

Tommy’s charity says it can help if you’re struggling to come to terms with what happened:

  • Talk to your partner, family or friends about how you are feeling
  • Ask your care team what support is available – they can refer you to a counselor who specializes in supporting people affected by ectopic pregnancy
  • Speak to a Tommy’s midwife free of charge Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on our hotline 0800 0147 800 or email midwife@tommys.org
  • Visit The Tubal Pregnancy Trust for further support and information.


Credit: Alamy

https://www.thesun.ie/health/846843/ectopic-pregnancy-signs-symptoms-causes/ What is an ectopic pregnancy, what are the signs, causes and symptoms and how does it feel?

Fry Electronics Team

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