Seed to Soul

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

Understanding Ectopic Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

As we come to the end of August, I am reflecting on the month where I once again completed over 80 miles walking to represent the 1 in 80 pregnancies that are ectopic. After a very difficult experience with a ectopic pregnancy in September 2018, my husband and I have dedicated ourselves to raising awareness (and funds) of ectopic pregnancies and what you need to do if you have an ectopic. If you’re like me and you didn’t really know anyone who had had an ectopic pregnancy nor what to look out for if you were experiencing one, the below is a handy starting guide for you.

So, what is an ectopic pregnancy? It’s a condition that requires attention and prompt medical intervention which occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, typically in the fallopian tube. Here we’ll discuss the signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, and what steps to take if you experience them. We’ll also explore the treatment options available.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms:

1️⃣ Missed/late period or positive pregnancy test: You find out you are pregnant or perhaps miss a period and so assume you are pregnant. Also, it is entirely possible that you don’t know you’re pregnant and this can be one of the more frightening situations because if you don’t know, when (if) you seek medical attention for some of the other symptoms, you will be unlikely to mention that you are pregnant and so other conditions may be suspected. In my case, our ectopic pregnancy followed our 4th IVF round and so we knew for sure that we were pregnant.

2️⃣ Abdominal Pain: One of the most common symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy is persistent abdominal pain, usually on one side. It may feel sharp or cramp-like and can intensify over time. I had extreme pain on my left side, which I later discovered was due to blood pooling in my abdomen. The pain was so intense it was making me physically sick.

3️⃣ Vaginal Bleeding: Light vaginal bleeding or spotting, which may be different from a normal period, can occur. It may be accompanied by brownish or pinkish discharge. This was a symptom I never had with our ectopic. It could have been due to the high levels of progesterone I was taking as part of the IVF protocol, but I will never know. This is where I think it was quite scary for me because I didn’t have any bleeding at all so I had no idea that something so sinister was happening internally.

4️⃣ Shoulder Pain: Shoulder pain can occur in some cases, as the ectopic pregnancy may cause internal bleeding, which irritates the diaphragm and causes referred pain. Again, this was a symptom I never had and so I can’t describe what it feels like because it never happened to me.

5️⃣ Weakness, Dizziness or Collapse: Feeling lightheaded, weak, or dizzy can be an indication of internal bleeding. This symptom requires immediate medical attention. I definitely fainted the morning of the day when our ectopic pregnancy was discovered. I was violently sick and then essentially collapsed in the bathroom at home. Again, I still didn’t know that this was due to the internal bleeding.

6️⃣ Bladder/bowel problems: This can be an assortment of diarrhea, pain when going to the toilet either to pee or poop or even sharp pain in the vagina. If these are coupled with other symptoms described above then it is definitely worth considering if you might have an ectopic pregnancy.

Taking Action: If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly. Contact your healthcare provider or go to the nearest emergency room. Early detection and intervention are critical to prevent complications. You may experience some or all of these symptoms to varying degrees and so it’s vital to listen your body and if it doesn’t feel right, go and get checked out.

Treatment Options:

1️⃣ Medication: In some cases, if the ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed early and stable, medication may be administered to stop the growth of the pregnancy and allow the body to absorb the pregnancy tissue.

2️⃣ Surgery: If the ectopic pregnancy poses a severe threat to your health or if medication is unsuccessful, surgical intervention may be necessary. The surgical approach can involve removing the affected fallopian tube (salpingectomy) or attempting to repair the tube (salpingostomy) while preserving its function.

I will do a full post on our ectopic pregnancy experience, however, suffice it to say that within a few hours of being diagnosed as having an ectopic, I was rushed into emergency, life-saving surgery. I lost my left Fallopian tube that day and we lost a piece of ourselves, as well as a much-wanted baby. But thank goodness we were being scanned for viability and the doctors acted very quickly when they realized the severity of the situation. It has meant I was able to carry on being a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend.

Post-Treatment Care: After being treated for an ectopic pregnancy, it’s essential to give yourself time to heal both physically and emotionally. I cannot stress enough the emotional healing that you may need to go through. If you ever need to talk, I am always here as someone who experienced an ectopic or you can contact The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust who do invaluable work to raise awareness and support those going through ectopic pregnancies. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for recovery and attend any recommended follow-up appointments. Reach out to your support system and consider seeking counseling or joining support groups to help navigate the emotional impact of the experience.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy is crucial for early detection and appropriate medical intervention. If you experience any symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek immediate medical attention. Remember, with timely diagnosis and treatment, the chances of a successful recovery and future healthy pregnancies can be maximized. Your healthcare provider will guide you through the most suitable treatment options for your specific situation and don’t forget the emotional side to experiencing an ectopic and seek help as you need it.

Disclaimer: this information serves as a general overview and should not replace professional medical advice. Readers should consult their healthcare provider for personalized guidance.

I'm Zillah—

The fertility expert behind the blog.

My own personal journey through infertility and loss has fueled my passion to help others navigate their fertility challenges. Now, I'm here to share my knowledge, provide guidance, and offer a compassionate space for you to find strength, hope, and the support you need on your own fertility journey.

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