Ectopic Pregnancy: Symptoms, Treatment And Support

Around 1 in 90 pregnancies in the UK are ectopic pregnancies. An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, often in one of the fallopian tubes.

If an egg implants here, it won’t develop into a baby, and it may put your health at risk.




Causes Of Ectopic Pregnancy


Most of the time, it’s not clear what has caused an ectopic pregnancy. It can happen if there is a blockage or narrowing of the fallopian tubes themselves.

There are some things that can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy:

  • PID, or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Previous fallopian tube surgery
  • Some fertility treatments, such as IVF
  • Becoming pregnant while using IUD, or IUS contraceptives
  • Previous ectopic pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Age – You are at higher risk if you’re over 35




Ectopic pregnancies don’t always have symptoms so they may only be detected through a routine pregnancy scan. If you do have symptoms, they tend to develop between the 4th and 12th week of pregnancy.

These symptoms can include:

  • A missed period
  • Tummy pain low down on one side
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Brown watery discharge
  • Discomfort when using the toilet – bowel movement or urine
  • Pain in the tip of your shoulder


Seeking Medical Advice


If you have any of the symptoms, and you think you may be pregnant, you should call your GP, or NHS 111 for advice.

Your GP will probably do a pregnancy test and refer you to an early pregnancy clinic for further assessment. This can include blood tests and an ultrasound scan.

If you experience a combination of the following, you should attend your local A&E, or call for an ambulance:

  • Feeling very dizzy
  • Fainting
  • Sharp, sudden and intense abdominal pain
  • Feeling sick
  • Looking very pale

This could mean that the fallopian tube has ruptured. A ruptured fallopian tube can be very serious, and you will need to have surgery as soon as possible.




There are three main treatment options for an ectopic pregnancy.

Your healthcare team will discuss the risks and benefits of each, and recommend a treatment based on your symptoms and test results.

The treatment options are:

  • Expectant management – You will be monitored closely to see if the fertilised egg dissolves by itself without further intervention. If this doesn’t happen, you will be given further treatment.
  • Medicine – This is an injection of strong medicine, which will stop the pregnancy from growing any further.
  • Surgery – Surgery will be carried out under general anaesthetic to remove the fertilised egg. Depending on your individual case, the involved fallopian tube may also be removed.

 Some treatments may make it more difficult for you to conceive naturally in the future, but most women can still conceive. Your doctor will discuss this, and what options you may have, with you.




You may experience feelings of grief after an ectopic pregnancy. This is normal, so give yourself time and space to grieve.

These feelings may last for several months. However, there is support available.

You can ask your GP to refer you for professional support or counselling.

You may also want to look at support groups from charities experienced in helping those who have suffered an ectopic pregnancy. Organisations such as The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, Ectopic Pregnancy Foundation and Cruse Bereavement Care can help support you through this.


Trying For Another Baby


You might want to try to conceive again when you feel ready. Your GP will probably advise you to wait until you’ve had at least 2 periods. If you were treated with medicine, you should wait for 3 months so it can fully leave your system.

In most cases, it’s possible to become pregnant again after an ectopic pregnancy. However, some struggle, and in these cases, there are fertility treatments available.

If you are pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy, it’s important to let your GP know as soon as possible. They will refer you for early scans to check your pregnancy.