Ectopic pregnancy 

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg implants itself outside the womb. Records show there are 11,000 ectopic pregnancies in the UK each year, but the actual figure is thought to be higher. In this video, an expert gives their advice and Katherine describes her experience of it.

Learn more about the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy

Transcript of Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is any pregnancy that implants outside the uterus or womb

which is where a normal pregnancy implants and grows.

The majority of ectopic pregnancies develop in the fallopian tube

which links the ovary to the womb.

My husband and I were trying for a baby.

We tried for about six months without any real success.

I had what I thought was a period after two weeks,

although it was light and it was a strange colour as well.

The symptoms are pain and bleeding.

Often it's just spotting, so very light bleeding when the woman goes to the loo,

or it could be heavier bleeding like a period, sometimes with clots.

In terms of the pain she might experience,

classically, it's on the side of the ectopic pregnancy.

It's a sharp, stitch-like pain.

Actually, the pain in real life is often more non-specific than that.

The vast majority of time, we never establish what the cause has been.

In terms of risk factors, anything that scars the fallopian tubes

can result in an increased chance of developing an ectopic pregnancy.

The main one being either having had a previous ectopic pregnancy

or having had a pelvic infection

such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea that could scar the tubes.

The majority of women will come to the early pregnancy clinic.

They've done a positive pregnancy test at home

and developed pain or bleeding. She will have an ultrasound scan.

Once the diagnosis is established, she'll be offered a range of treatments.

The opposite extreme is if a woman has a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.

The tube has burst and is causing internal bleeding.

in which case she might present

with having collapsed at home in severe pain and be very unwell.

I was just suddenly doubled over with excruciating abdominal pain.

I think I may have passed out.

I ended up in hospital. I was finding it very difficult to breathe.

I had a lot of pain near my neck and by my shoulder

and could not breathe deeply without it really hurting.

I didn't really understand properly what it was

and that it did mean an unviable pregnancy

and that you would lose your baby.

I was bleeding internally because of the rupture in my fallopian tube.

My abdominal cavity was filling up with blood

which was what was causing the pain.

I was immediately sent to the women's centre for keyhole surgery.

If a woman does need surgery for an ectopic pregnancy

it can be done either through a cut in the tummy

or through keyhole surgery which has a quicker recovery time.

Once the surgeon has a look inside and confirms the diagnosis of an ectopic,

he or she has a choice of either trying to preserve the tube

and shell out the ectopic on its own

or whether to remove the tube in its entirety.

The reason for my ectopic pregnancy was unknown.

So it was quite terrifying to realise that I'd lost a baby

through no known cause

and the impact of that on how I felt about future pregnancies

was basically just a complete increase in fear.

There are support sites, particularly on the website, that she can turn to.

The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust is one of the main ones.

I did feel very alone.

It was only through a charity online

that I was able to make contact with other people

who were experiencing similar things.

If you take about 100 women who've had an ectopic pregnancy,

60 to 70 per cent of those women will be able to get pregnant again naturally

without any assisted conception.

We did manage to conceive with a healthy pregnancy

and I now have a healthy ten-month-old boy.

It's only the tiny minority of pregnancies which are really serious

and have the potential to cause big complications and even death.

However, the earlier a woman comes and seeks help,

the more options she has and the better the assessment can be made.

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Signs and symptoms of pregnancy

Common signs that you're pregnant, including morning sickness, sore breasts and feeling tired

When pregnancy goes wrong

Information and sources of support on ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, termination and losing a baby.