An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg is implanted outside of the uterus. The most common area where an ectopic pregnancy occurs is the fallopian tubes (95 per cent), but can they can also occur in the ovaries, the cervix or the abdomen. Affecting 1 in 80 pregnancies, ectopic pregnancy means ‘out of place’ pregnancy. The symptoms occur as the embryo grows outside of the uterus, sometimes leading to the tube being damaged, severe abdominal pain or internal bleeding which can be fatal.
When does it happen?
Ectopic pregnancy usually occurs within the first few weeks of you becoming pregnant, despite the fact you may not know you are pregnant.
What causes an ectopic pregnancy?
It is not fully known what causes an ectopic pregnancy, however surgery to the fallopian tube, appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease and endometriosis are some the more commonly known causes. When an egg is released from the ovary into the fallopian tube and fertilised by a sperm, the then fertilised egg gets stuck on its journey to the womb, in most cases remaining in the fallopian tube.
Who is at risk?
Any woman who is of childbearing age and is sexually active could be in risk of getting an ectopic pregnancy. However, the following have been determined by medics as factors that may cause an ectopic pregnancy. If you’ve had surgery on your fallopian tubes to correct a problem or reverse a tubal litigation, have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or Endometriosis, have been using the contraceptive coil (UCD), recently used the Morning After Pill, have an untreated STI or suffered from a previous ectopic pregnancy.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms differ from woman to woman, with some noticing the symptoms early on and others not not until the fallopian tube ruptures. However, the common symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are abdominal pain (either constant and severe or can come and go, which may occur on the particular side where the ectopic pregnancy is), spotting and abnormal vagina bleeding, a missed or late period, pain when urinating, diarrhoea, nausea, light headedness, vomiting with pain, dizziness and weakness, shoulder tip pain which is caused by internal bleeding affecting the diaphragm when breathing, and collapsing.
How is it diagnosed?
Ectopic pregnancies can be diagnosed by measuring the amount of the hormone beta hcG in the blood, which should double every two days in a normal pregnancy. However, in an ectopic pregnancy the hormone level may be lower and rise more slowly. Other ways of diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy are by a vaginal ultrasound scan and a laparoscopy.
What happens once an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed?
Treatment depends on the size of the ectopic pregnancy and the diagnosis, and sadly the pregnancy cannot be moved back and implanted in the uterus. If there is any risk of rupture, the pregnancy has to be removed which requires surgery.
What are the chances of an ectopic pregnancy reoccurring?
According to studies there is a 10 per cent chance of having another ectopic pregnancy, with the risk increasing with every ectopic pregnancy had.
Can I have a healthy pregnancy after an ectopic pregnancy?
Yes, within 18 months of being diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, 65 per cent of women have a perfectly healthy pregnancy.
When can I try to conceive again?
Your doctor would usually advise you to wait around three months, or waiting for two menstrual cycles before trying to conceive again, as the body will need time to recover. It is best to seek a health professionals advice before attempting pregnancy again.