Occasionally a pregnancy may occur outside the womb. Most commonly this occurs in the fallopian tube and is known as an ectopic pregnancy. This is obviously a major problem as the fallopian tube is not designed to carry a pregnancy. In fact the pregnancy very quickly becomes too large for the tube and will cause pain and swelling. At this stage the whole tube may have to be removed. An ectopic pregnancy can never be viable (it can never develop into a baby) and can be very dangerous to the patient.
- After IVF or ICSI the risk of an ectopic pregnancy is 3%
- After tubal surgery the risk of a pregnancy being ectopic is usually 10%
Who is most at risk?
Any woman trying to get pregnant has a small risk of developing an ectopic pregnancy. The risks are, however, higher in women who have had abdominal operations which might have damaged the fallopian tubes and in women who have a previous history of sexually transmitted diseases (e.g chlamydia) or pelvic inflammatory disease. Women who have had tubal surgery to clear obstructions or a reversal of sterilisation are also at higher risk.
How do I find out if I have an ectopic pregnancy?
If you achieve a pregnancy then you will be scanned in the early stages of the pregnancy to ensure that the pregnancy is normal and that it is in the womb.
An ectopic pregnancy usually causes quite intense pain on the side of the abdomen which corresponds to the tube which contains the pregnancy. If you suffer from this kind of serious pain during the early stages of a pregnancy then you should visit your GP so that it can be investigated.