What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

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What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is one which develops outside the womb.

In a normal pregnancy, an egg is released from an ovary and travels down a fallopian tube, which connects the ovaries to the womb. When the egg is fertilised it implants itself in the lining of the womb, where it develops into a baby.

In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilised egg implants outside the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies often result in a natural miscarriage and the woman may never know she was pregnant. Sometimes the growing embryo can split or tear the fallopian tube, causing serious internal bleeding.

To prevent this sort of complication, if you have an ectopic pregnancy a small operation can be carried out to remove the embryo. If a fallopian tube has already torn you may need emergency surgery to stop the bleeding, which might mean having to remove one of your fallopian tubes.

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can include:

Cramps and bleeding similar to your normal period. This could also be a miscarriage.
Severe pain on one side of your lower abdomen.

If you suspect you have an ectopic pregnancy you must see your GP urgently.

If the fallopian tube tears you may experience serious symptoms such as:
Sudden, severe pain that gradually spreads throughout the abdomen
Shoulder pain caused by blood leaking into the abdomen and irritating the muscles of the diaphragm
Shock due to sudden internal bleeding
Sweating, light-headedness and feeling faint
Diarrhoea or blood in the stools.

If you are pregnant and you experience one or more of the symptoms described you should seek urgent medical help from your local Accident and Emergency unit.

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