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What Is a Tubal Pregnancy?
Tubular (or ectopic) pregnancy is what occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself outside of the womb, in one of the mother’s fallopian tubes.
If you are in a high risk group for ectopic pregnancy, it is important that you know the symptoms and what to look out for, as early treatment is critical; unfortunately, although relatively rare, a tubal pregnancy can be very dangerous if not detected quickly.
Who Is at Risk?
There are some groups who are without a doubt at higher risk of fallopian tube pregnancy. If you have ever had PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), studies have shown that there is an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Pregnancies which occur while the mother is using intrauterine contraception (often known as the coil) are extremely rare but can result in tubal pregnancy. If you suspect that you are pregnant while you have an IUD fitted, you should speak to your GP or health professional as soon as possible.
Previous ectopic pregnancy or fallopian surgery also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy, as does smoking or certain fertility treatments such as IVF.
If you are in any of these risk groups, it is very helpful to know the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy and what to do if you are experiencing them.
What Are the Symptoms?
In some cases, you may not experience any symptoms – in this case, you will probably only find out that your pregnancy is ectopic through a routine scan. Some tubal pregnancies may result in very early miscarriage, and you may not even be aware that you were pregnant.
Women that do experience symptoms almost always do so between weeks four and 12 of the pregnancy (in the first trimester). Apart from the obvious effects of pregnancy such as a missed period, some women will experience sharp pain in their shoulder; pain or discomfort when passing urine or during bowel movements; or bloody, brown discharge.
If you know (or believe) that you are pregnant and experience any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor or midwife as soon as possible. It’s possible that it may be nothing (all of the symptoms listed can be found in people with stomach bugs), but it is important to rule out tubal pregnancy.
More serious symptoms include intense, sharp and sudden abdominal pain in combination with nausea, sickness or loss of consciousness. In the event you experience any of these symptoms, is it vital that you seek emergency care as soon as possible as they could indicate a tubal rupture. If this occurs, it is highly likely that surgery will be required to repair the tube – in some cases, this can be life threatening. The good news is that tubal ruptures are extremely rare, and treatable if caught early enough.
What Happens to the Baby?
Sadly, ectopic pregnancies never develop into babies – they will either result in very early miscarriage (in many cases, this will be so early that the mother will never know that she was pregnant) or in surgery to remove the implanted egg in order to prevent serious harm to the mother.
If you have experienced an ectopic pregnancy, it can be very difficult to cope with, particularly if you experienced severe symptoms or required surgery, which can be traumatic. It’s important to know that there are now many organizations dedicated to supporting parents and families who have had to cope with tubal pregnancy, and you will be able to locate your local groups by searching “ectopic pregnancy support.”
They will not only be able to offer you counselling and emotional support but also give you advice on further pregnancies – some treatments for tubal pregnancy can mean reduced fertility in the future, which can be difficult to cope with.
I’m Concerned That I’m at Risk – What Next?
If you are concerned that you are at risk of ectopic pregnancy, or believe that you may currently be experiencing one, it is crucial that you speak to your midwife or health care professional as soon as possible. Early treatment massively reduces the risk of harming your ability to conceive at a later date and also helps to diminish the potential ill effects to you personally.
They will be able to give you practical, realistic advice on what to expect, and if it is agreed that you are at high risk, they may well be able to offer you increased monitoring through the early stages of your pregnancy.
What Does All of This Mean?
Ectopic pregnancy, at least the kind that causes symptoms and requires treatment, is thankfully very rare. If you are in one of the high risk groups, taking advice from your health professional prior to attempting to conceive is sensible, as they may be able to offer you increased monitoring in the early stages of pregnancy. Although this will not prevent tubal pregnancy, it will help to put your mind at ease.
Should ectopic pregnancy occur while you are being monitored, you will be able to access quick and efficient treatment, which should reduce the risk of experiencing side effects which might reduce your ability to conceive in the future.
If you have already experienced an ectopic pregnancy, you may wish to contact a support group – they will be able to give you advice as well as put you in touch with other people who have had the same experience. You will be able to find them either through an internet search or speaking to your local health professional.
If having read this you are in any doubt over symptoms that you are experiencing, it is always best to seek further medical advice.