ectopic pregnancy symptoms

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms and treatment

Ectopic pregnancy, also known as tubal pregnancy, is a complication of pregnancy in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus. Some ectopic pregnancy symptoms and treatment are outlined below. 

Why does an ectopic pregnancy happen?

Medical professionals don’t really know why an ectopic pregnancy happens. The egg normally spends about five days travelling down the tube from the ovary to your uterus, where it implants and begins to develop. If you have an ectopic pregnancy, this doesn’t happen, and your pregnancy begins to develop in the tube. This may happen due to damage to your fallopian tube, which causes your tube to be too narrow for the egg to reach its destination.

Recognising an ectopic pregnancy is not easy. It may feel like period pains. Symptoms may come and go, or you may not even feel any symptoms during the early stages.

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding, different from your normal period. It may be lighter, and brighter, or darker red than usual, or watery. Some women describe it as looking like prune juice.
  • Mild to severe one-sided pain in your lower abdomen or pelvis, which may come on gradually or suddenly. If you experience this and you think you may be pregnant, see your doctor. If your ectopic pregnancy is not diagnosed early, your tube may be stretched by your growing embryo, and rupture.

This will usually cause internal bleeding, and the following signs and symptoms:

  • Sweating and feeling light-headed, faint or dizzy.
  • Diarrhoea or pain when you poo.
  • Shock, or collapsing.
  • Shoulder-tip pain, which may be worse when you lie down. It is not known exactly why shoulder tip pain occurs, but it usually occurs when you are lying down and is a sign that the ectopic pregnancy is causing internal bleeding.

What to do

See your doctor immediately, or go to hospital. If your fallopian tube has ruptured, you’ll go straight to surgery. But in most cases, ectopic pregnancies are caught early enough for tests to be done and surgery to be planned.

Ectopic pregnancy treatment

If an ectopic pregnancy is discovered during the examination, the surgeon will remove the pregnancy and the fallopian tube (salpingectomy). Removing the affected tube decreases your risk of having another ectopic pregnancy. It is possible to remove the ectopic pregnancy from your tube and preserve the fallopian tube if it hasn’t already ruptured, or become severely damaged. This may be preferred if you only have one tube, or if your other fallopian tube doesn’t look healthy.

More you might like:

11 pregnancy pains and how to treat them
Symptoms of morning sickness
Dos and don’t of pregnancy 


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.