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Ectopic pregnancy

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.

VIDEO: Ectopic Pregnancy

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

If the doctor or nurse feels that you are low risk, you can return for a repeat scan in 7 days. The doctor or nurse should then be able to see whether the pregnancy is growing inside the uterus on the ultrasound scan. If you cannot return in 7 days or earlier, we will refer you to an Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) at an NHS hospital.

If the doctor or nurse feels that you are higher risk, you will be referred right away to an EPAU. 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 Aftercare Line 0300 333 68 28 (or +44 1789 508 210)
  • 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 call the NHS non-emergency line by dialling 111.