Ectopic pregnancy symptoms
Ectopic pregnancies happen to around 15,000 women every year, but what are the symptoms and what does it mean for you and your baby?
We’ve teamed up with Dr. Mary Steen-Greaves from Pampers expert panel.
As a mother of three and with over 20 years experience as a midwife, she has answered some of the most commonly asked questions about ectopic pregnancies to sort the facts from the fiction...
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
When an egg is released and fertilised by a sperm it usually travels along the Fallopian tube to reach your uterus.
When an ectopic pregnancy happens the fertilised egg does not reach your uterus and instead it implants in the lining of one of your Fallopian tubes.
It is commonly referred to as a tubal pregnancy and approximately, 50% of these will resolve naturally and be aborted from the Fallopian tube. It is one of the reasons that a woman may miscarry after she has had a positive pregnancy test.
Can you do anything to prevent an ectopic pregnancy?
There's nothing in particular you can do to prevent ectopic pregnancy - it just happens. However, if you have had an ectopic pregnancy in the past, your next pregnancy will be closely monitored.
However, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), Intra-uterine device, previous tubal surgery such as tubal ligation are associated with an increased risk.
What happens exactly?
The fertilised egg starts to grow, but the Fallopian tubes are too small to take an embryo. The presence of the fertilised egg causes pain and bleeding from 3-6 weeks of pregnancy.
The pain is caused by the release of prostaglandins at the implantation site and usually has a sudden onset which can gradually increase in its intensity.
The bleeding can be external but also internal and not visible. Pain can also be felt when passing urine and when opening your bowels which are common symptoms associated with urinary infections and constipation during pregnancy.
Therefore, any concerns you may have, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.
A doctor will make a diagnosis and rule out the possibility of appendicitis or any gastro-intestinal problem.
So if your period is late and you are suffering from pain in your lower abdomen, you should see your doctor in case you could have an ectopic pregnancy.
An ultrasound scan and an abnormal high level of human chorionic gonadotropin hormone detect via a blood test will confirm the doctor’s diagnosis.
How is ectopic pregnancy treated?
If undetected, many ectopic pregnancies result in tubal abortions (many women think they have had a miscarriage). If you experience pain or bleeding you should see a doctor immediately.
Ectopic pregnancy has to be treated urgently with surgery as soon as possible as it can be life threatening and is deemed as a medical emergency. The growth of the fertilised egg can cause the Fallopian tube to rupture and cause severe haemorrhage (cataclysmic haemorrhage, in medical terms).
You don't always get sharp pain with haemorrhage; the pain may be mild if the haemorrhage is slow. Treatment involves surgery to make an incision in the Fallopian tube or remove the tube to remove the pregnancy (depending on severity).
If possible, keyhole surgery is performed to reduce scarring. In some cases, medication can be used to stop the embryo from growing and prevent the need for surgery (in this case the drug methotrexate is used).
What are the consequences?
Don't worry: an ectopic pregnancy doesn't make you infertile. In most cases (around 60%), women who have had an ectopic pregnancy fall pregnant again within the two years.
Of course, expectant mothers who are deemed 'high risk' will be closely monitored, especially throughout the early stages of pregnancy. If you are worried you can talk to your doctor for further information.