What Does An Ectopic Pregnancy Feel Like

How Painful Is An Ectopic Pregnancy

What does an ectopic pregnancy feel like?

An ectopic pregnancy can be very painful, though it varies from a mild cramping to an intense stabbing sensation.

Generally, the first signs are pain in the lower abdomenaround the same area as cramps during a periodand vaginal bleeding.

At first, symptoms often mimic the beginning stages of pregnancy. This could mean having breast tenderness and feeling nauseated. If you take a pregnancy test, you will test positive. Your body thinks it’s pregnant and starts releasing hormones to support it.

How Does Your Lower Abdomen Feel In Early Pregnancy

Some abdominal pain is common with healthy pregnancies. Round ligament pain causes sharp, shooting pains in the hips and abdomen. These are normal . However, localized sharp stabbing pain on the right or left side of the abdomen could be a sign of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy .

A localized pain in the right ovary while pregnant or pain in the left ovary can be due to ovarian cysts. However, it is possible for ectopic pregnancy in an ovary to cause pain in the implanted ovary .

S For Removal Of Ectopic Pregnancy

According to the National Catholic Bioethics Center, there are three ways in which doctors can remove an embryo who has implanted outside the uterus.

1) Salpingectomy: In this procedure, doctors remove one or both fallopian tubes or a part of one, including the embryo.

This procedure is considered morally permissible by Catholic ethicists under the principle of double effect. The NCBC explains that the death of the embryo is a foreseen and unintended effect of an act directed at removing the pathologically affected section of the fallopian tube.

2) Salpingostomy: In this procedure, the fallopian tube is sliced longitudinally the damaged tissue and embryo are removed. The death of the embryo is part of the act of removing the embryo from the tube.

Some ethicists believe that salpingostomy is moral because the act by its object removes the trophoblast removal of the embryo is a foreseen and unintended side effect.

However, many Catholic ethicists see this as morally impermissible.

3) Methotrexate: Methotrexate is an anti-cancer drug.

When used by a woman with an ectopic pregnancy, methotrexate

Moral ethicists have long debated the moral licitness of these procedures. So lets learn about the principle of double effect to determine why there is so much debate.

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Causes Of Ectopic Pregnancy

Pro Tip

It is important to understand that most of the time, people who have an ectopic pregnancy do not have another. Though the risk of having a repeat ectopic pregnancy is higher. – Dr. Eduardo Hariton

There are many reasons an ectopic pregnancy occurs. Ectopic means out of placethe pregnancy is not where it should be.

The majority of ectopic pregnancies are in the fallopian tube. In rare instances, the embryo may go in other organs like the ovary, the cervix, or a caesarian section scar.

The most common cause is damage to the fallopian tubes. Instead of the embryo traveling down the tube and into the uterus, it gets stuck in the tube. It can still grow, which is why pregnancy hormones will be released.

If untreated, the embryo will continue to grow and may cause the tube to break .

Signs of a ruptured fallopian tube include dizziness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, fainting, or total loss of consciousness. It could be a life-threatening situation. Go to the ER immediately.

Symptoms Of Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic Pregnancy  Hauwa

If you have an ectopic pregnancy, you might experience:

One-sided abdominal pain typically on one side of your abdomen , which can be persistent and severe.

Vaginal bleeding vaginal bleeding is a different type of bleeding from your regular period. It often starts and stops, and can be bright or dark red in colour. Some women mistake this bleeding for a regular period and do not realise they are pregnant.

Shoulder tip pain shoulder tip pain is felt where your shoulder ends and your arm begins. It is not known exactly why shoulder tip pain occurs, but it usually occurs when you are lying down and is a sign that the ectopic pregnancy is causing internal bleeding. The bleeding is thought to irritate the phrenic nerve, which is found in your diaphragm . The irritation to the phrenic nerve causes referred pain in the shoulder blade.

Bowel pain you may experience pain when passing urine or stools.

Diarrhoea and vomiting an ectopic pregnancy can cause similar symptoms to a gastrointestinal disease and is often associated with diarrhoea and vomiting.

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What Does Ectopic Pregnancy Feel Like My Experience

My husband and I went through three and half years of infertility before conceiving our first child. You can read the full story about that here.

I was so happy and thrilled to finally be a mother, but the lifestyle change was a rough adjustment for me and my husband. Working full-time on top of parenting was an extra challenge.

It wasnt until our son was almost two where my husband and I felt like we had enough leeway in our lives to entertain the possibility of another child.

I had a fantasy that maybe our second child, unlike our first, would be easy. An easy and quick conception, an easy pregnancy, and an easy baby. I could hope, couldnt I? Id heard enough stories about people who suffered through years of infertility, only to have an oops for their second.

After our sons 2nd birthday we decided to stop preventing. I didnt want to get wrapped up in the emotional roller coaster of trying to get pregnant.

A month went by and nothing happened. I felt a little off, so I took a pregnancy test and it was negative. Soon after that, I began bleeding. No big deal, I thought. It was pretty unlikely to happen in the first month. Im prepared for this to take a year or longer like it did the first time.

I was proud of myself for my good attitude and went about my business.

Shortly after what I thought was my period ended I started having consistent shoulder pain in my right shoulder. I tried stretching it, massaging it, and taking hot showers. Nothing seemed to help.

Signs Of Ectopic Pregnancy At Five Weeks

  • Unusual brownish spotting or light bleeding after a positive pregnancy test
  • Vaginal bleeding not during your period
  • Abdominal pain, usually sharp and cramping, in the lower abdomen

If the ectopic pregnancy breaches a fallopiantube, you may experience any one or combination of the following:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Shoulder pain due to the blood in the abdomen pressing on nerves that radiate from the upper body through the pelvis
  • Stabbing cervix pain can be a harmless part of pregnancy, but it can be a harbinger of a more serious condition

Except for stabbing cervix pain, the rest of the above symptoms are a result of internal bleeding. A person experiencing severe spotting, heavy bleeding or any of the above symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

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Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment Options

An ectopic pregnancy cannot move itself or be moved to the uterus, and it canât continue to progress anywhere but in the uterus. Thatâs why treatment involves ending the pregnancy either by surgery or by medication. Your doctor will explain which option is best for you.


For an ectopic pregnancy, the most common drug used is methotrexate. This medication stops the cells of the embryo from growing, which ends the pregnancy. Then, over about four to six weeks, your body absorbs the pregnancy tissue. The benefit of this option is that the affected fallopian tube may not need to be removed, and you may be able to avoid surgery. This option may be recommended if the fallopian tube has not ruptured, and if youâre able to return for regular blood tests to check your hCG levels until it is no longer found in your blood. This option may not be available or advisable if youâre breastfeeding or have certain health issues.


If a fallopian tube has ruptured, emergency surgery is needed, but sometimes surgery may be needed even if a tube hasnât burst. The ectopic pregnancy may be removed from the tube leaving the tube in place, or the tube â together with the pregnancy tissue â may be removed. Typically, laparoscopic surgery is chosen. This involves small incisions being made in your abdomen while youâre under a general anesthetic. During surgery the pregnancy tissue is removed, and the affected tube is repaired or removed.

Second And Third Trimesters

Ectopic Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Dr. Farheen Faruque


The hormones that help you get and stay pregnant can also cause side effects including, in rare instances, gallstones. You might not know you have gallstones at all, but if a gallstone gets stuck in a duct or tube, it can cause serious symptoms.

Pain in your right shoulder during pregnancy might mean that you have gallstones. Other symptoms include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • severe pain in your upper right abdomen that gets worse
  • sudden pain in the middle of your abdomen that gets worse
  • back pain between your shoulder blades

Pain from gallstones can last for minutes or even hours. In serious cases, you may have a high fever and even jaundice .

You might need surgery to remove the gallstones if you have a serious blockage or other complications. But in most cases, gallstones can be treated with lifestyle changes, like:

  • eating regular meals

Ask your doctor about which pain medication is safe during pregnancy and right for you. Acetaminophen is normally OK to take occasionally.

For more serious causes of shoulder pain ectopic, gallstones, and preeclampsia youll need more specific medical treatment from your doctor.

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What Does An Ectopic Pregnancy Feel Like

The term ectopic refers to something that is wrongly placed. When we talk of an ectopic pregnancy, we are pretty much defining a pregnancy that is in the wrong place, and in this case the pregnancy would be outside the womb or uterus.

Over 95% of all ectopic pregnancies occur due to implantation within the fallopian tubes, hence the frequent use of the alternate name, tubal pregnancies.If left treated, the tube could easily rupture and bring about internal bleeding leading to fatal consequences. Because the pregnancy cannot be moved and placed on the uterus, ectopic pregnancies do not survive. Treatment involves removal of the pregnancy tissues and the fallopian tube affected.

When To Call 911

Ectopic pregnancy can cause a fallopian tube to rupture. If that happens, you could have major pain and severe bleeding, and you would need medical care right away. Here are some possible signs of this:

  • Pain in your rectum or an intense urge to have a bowel movement could mean youre bleeding internally.
  • Pain in your shoulder could also be an emergency. While it might not sound pregnancy-related, if one of your fallopian tubes bursts, blood can pool near your diaphragm and irritate nerves that run to your shoulder.
  • If your pain is severe, sharp, and sudden, or if you feel lightheaded or dizzy, or if youve fainted, call 911 immediately. These are all signs you could be going into shock.

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But First What Is Ectopic Pregnancy

Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg grows somewhere outside the uterus in 90% of cases, in one of the fallopian tubes.

“One of the things that I always try to explain to women is that this is not a baby,” Dr. Donnica Moore, a gynecologist and women’s health expert, told TODAY Parents. “This is a pregnancy that did not implant in the womb and it can’t be saved.”

Ectopic pregnancies, also commonly known as tubal pregnancies, can cause dangerous complications, including internal bleeding or a ruptured fallopian tube.

“The fallopian tube is very narrow, so by the time the implantation is big enough that it’s causing a blockage of tubes, you’ll usually have symptoms,” Moore said.

Risk factors for ectopic pregnancies include having had one in the past, having had pelvic inflammatory disease or any type of damage or scarring on the fallopian tubes, being a cigarette smoker and being older than 35 years old. Women who use assisted reproductive technology, including IVF, also have a greater risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. That said, half of women with ectopic pregnancies have no risk factors.

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Who Is At Risk For An Ectopic Pregnancy

All sexually active women are at some risk for an ectopic pregnancy. Risk factors increase with any of the following:

If you have any of the above risk factors, talk to your doctor. You can work with your doctor or a fertility specialist to minimize the risks for future ectopic pregnancies.

Am I At Risk Of Having An Ectopic Pregnancy

  • If you’ve had pelvic inflammatory disease , most often caused by chlamydia. This can cause damage and scarring to the fallopian tubes .
  • If you’ve had any abdominal surgery, including your appendix being removed, or a caesarean section, or surgery on your fallopian tubes, such as a sterilization reversal .
  • If you are pregnant after IVF treatment . You should have an early ultrasound to check where the embryo has implanted.
  • If you are using a contraceptive intrauterine device , or if you are taking the contraceptive mini-pill once you are pregnant.
  • If you smoke .
  • If you’ve had a previous ectopic pregnancy, your risk increases from about one in 90 to one in 10 .
  • If you are aged40 or above .

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How Common Is Ectopic Pregnancy

According to the , one out of 50 pregnancies results in an ectopic pregnancy. Other estimates put it a little lowerabout one out of 100. Regardless, this is a relatively rare event that is exacerbated by several risk factors.

These risk factors include whether or not the woman smokes. Factors also include prior surgery, scars on the fallopian tubes, age, and whether or not a woman has had an STD. This is important to know because STDs often lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which damages the fallopian tubes and increases the scarring. This scarring could cause the embryo to get stuck en route to the uterus.

When an ectopic pregnancy does happen, the parents are usually devastated. The hopes and dreams they had for their little one are shattered, and they must now deal with the death of their child.

This is often a very traumatic experience to endure. Thats why there are many organizations that will help the parents heal emotionally, especially as the procedure to remove the embryo may be very difficultemotionally and physically.

What Are The Treatments For Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic Pregnancy, symptoms to look for….wmv

Treatment options for ectopic pregnancy include observation, laparoscopy, laparotomy, and medication. The selection of these options is individualized.

Some ectopic pregnancies will resolve on their own without the need for any intervention, while others will need urgent surgery due to life-threatening bleeding. However, because of the risk of rupture and potentially dire consequences, most women with a diagnosed ectopic pregnancy are treated with medications or surgery.

For those who require intervention, the most common treatment is surgery. Two surgical options are available laparotomy and laparoscopy.

  • Laparotomy is an open procedure whereby a transverse incision is made across the lower abdomen.
  • Laparoscopy involves inserting viewing instruments into the pelvis through tiny incisions in the skin.

For many surgeons and patients, laparoscopy is preferred over laparotomy because of the tiny incisions used and the speedy recovery afterward. Under optimal conditions, a small incision can be made in the Fallopian tube and the ectopic pregnancy removed, leaving the Fallopian tube intact. However, certain conditions make laparoscopy less effective or unavailable as an alternative. These include massive pelvic scar tissue and excessive blood in the abdomen or pelvis. In some instances, the location or extent of the damage may require the removal of a portion of the Fallopian tube, the entire tube, the ovary, and even the uterus.

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Frequently Asked Questionsexpand All

  • What is ectopic pregnancy?

    An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus. Almost all ectopic pregnanciesmore than 90%occur in a fallopian tube. As the pregnancy grows, it can cause the tube to burst . A rupture can cause major internal bleeding. This can be a life-threatening emergency that needs immediate surgery.

  • What are the risk factors for ectopic pregnancy?

    The risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include the following:

  • Previous ectopic pregnancy

Other factors that may increase a womans risk of ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Cigarette smoking

  • Age older than 35 years

  • History of infertility

About one half of all women who have an ectopic pregnancy do not have known risk factors. Sexually active women should be alert to changes in their bodies, especially if they experience symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy.

  • What are the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy?

    At first, an ectopic pregnancy may feel like a typical pregnancy with some of the same signs, such as a missed menstrual period, tender breasts, or an upset stomach. Other signs may include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

  • Mild pain in the abdomen or pelvis

  • Mild cramping on one side of the pelvis

  • At this stage, it may be hard to know if you are experiencing a typical pregnancy or an ectopic pregnancy. Abnormal bleeding and pelvic pain should be reported to your obstetriciangynecologist or other health care professional.

  • Perform a pelvic exam

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Dizziness

  • Heavy exercise

  • Sexual intercourse

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