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Ectopic Pregnancy


Ectopic pregnancy

Click here to download The Ectopic Pregnancy section from the bpas guide.

An ectopic pregnancy is one that is growing outside the uterus (womb). Often, an ectopic pregnancy grows in one of the Fallopian tubes. Around 1% of pregnancies are ectopic. An ectopic pregnancy is very serious and can be life threatening.

Why we are giving you information about ectopic pregnancy?
Your pregnancy test is positive but the pregnancy may be so early that we cannot see it on the ultrasound scan. This is most common when the pregnancy is less than 5 weeks along. If we cannot see the pregnancy on ultrasound, you may have:

  • a normal pregnancy that is just too small to see on ultrasound
  • a pregnancy that has started but is no longer growing (a miscarriage)
  • an ectopic pregnancy


The doctor or nurse at bpas will talk to you about the likelihood of these possibilities occurring based on your medical history.

An ectopic pregnancy can happen to any woman. Some conditions make it more likely. These include:

  • having had an ectopic pregnancy in the past
  • diseases that affect the Fallopian tubes
  • having had abdominal surgery in the past
  • a history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • an intrauterine device in place such as the copper “coil” or Mirena
  • smoking
  • older age


What to expect
What happens now depends on your risk of ectopic pregnancy.

If the doctor or nurse feels that you are low risk, you can return for a repeat scan in a week. The doctor or nurse should then be able to see whether the pregnancy is growing inside the uterus on the ultrasound scan.

If the doctor or nurse feels that you are higher risk, you will be referred right away to an Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) at an NHS hospital. They will be able to do blood tests or other tests to find out if the pregnancy is normal, a miscarriage or an ectopic.

We can refer you to an EPAU even if you are at low risk of ectopic pregnancy. Please tell the doctor or nurse if you want this option.

Signs or symptoms of ectopic pregnancy
If you choose to come back to bpas in a week for another scan, you should know about worrying signs or symptoms to watch out for. These are:

  • lower abdominal pain, especially if on one side and severe
  • pain under the ribs or in the shoulders
  • fainting or feeling light headed
  • vaginal bleeding


If you have any of these, seek medical advice immediately from:

  • the nearest A&E department
  • the bpas Aftercare Line 0800 247 1122
  • your GP


How can I get more information?
If you need any more information you should speak to a bpas doctor or nurse, your GP or ring NHS Direct on 0845 4647.