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Ectopic pregnancy

‘When a fertilised egg implants outside the womb, usually in a fallopian tube, and is unable to develop properly.’

Early diagnosis is the key to managing an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancy happens in about one of every 50 pregnancies, and can lead to life-threatening bleeding if not diagnosed and treated early enough. Early management can also save the fallopian tubes, so you have a chance of becoming pregnant again.

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms

In some cases there are no symptoms at all, and it’s only detected during regular pregnancy testing. In general, however, some of the symptoms below will appear between the fourth and twelfth weeks of the pregnancy.

  • Severe abdominal pain

    Persistent and severe pain on one side of the abdomen.

  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding

    Light to heavy bleeding that can be bright or dark red, and tends to start and stop frequently.

  • Sharp shoulder pain

    Thought to be caused by internal bleeding as a result of ectopic pregnancy, this pain can be felt specifically when you are lying down.

  • Diarrhoea, vomiting, fainting

    Similar to having a gastrointestinal disease, you may experience dizziness, vomiting, fainting and diarrhoea

Ectopic pregnancy management

If an ectopic pregnancy is left to develop the fallopian tube can rupture, and cause life threatening internal bleeding. There are only two ways to safely manage this.

If there is no immediate danger or signs of complication, then medication may be prescribed that stops the growth of rapidly dividing cells. This will lead to a series of symptoms similar to  miscarriage, including cramping, bleeding, and the passing of tissue. If detected early enough, however, the pregnancy tissue may be absorbed into the body.

If the fallopian tube if it is severely damaged, it may be advisable to perform a Salpingostomy where we either remove the tube completely, or remove the ectopic pregnancy and repair the tube. The procedure is called a laparotomy, and can be managed with keyhole surgery, to minimise scaring and speed recovery.