What is an ectopic pregnancy?
One in 90 pregnancies is ectopic, meaning misplaced. This is where a fertilised egg ends up implanting itself in the wrong place, outside the womb. The most common place is the fallopian tube which is the tube which runs from the ovary, where the eggs are produced, to the womb. If a fertilised egg implants in the wrong place, this can be a medical emergency. If the ectopic pregnancy remains untreated, it can go on to rupture the fallopian tube, causing heavy blood loss and can impact on future fertility.
What are the causes of ectopic pregnancy?
The most common reason the egg gets stuck in the tube and embeds is that the fallopian tube is either inflamed or damaged in some way, causing the natural route to the womb to become obstructed. You may have an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy if you have suffered with pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, had surgery to your tubes/ovaries or have a coil fitted for contraception. If you have previously suffered an ectopic pregnancy, you are also at greater risk.
What are the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy?
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy tend to show in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Initial signs may be similar to those of a womb pregnancy, such as a missed period, breast tenderness and cramps. Because of this, there are times when ectopic pregnancy is only picked up at the initial 12 week dating scan. An ectopic pregnancy can be dangerous and lead to serious complications.
Warning signs can include:
- Stomach pain down one side
- Vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the shoulder
How is ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
An ectopic pregnancy is generally diagnosed by carrying out an ultrasound scan or by checking that the pregnancy hormone, hCG, is doubling over time. This is done with blood tests being performed 48 hours apart.
How is ectopic pregnancy managed?
If you are diagnosed early you will be treated by way of either:
- Expectant management: a ‘wait and see’ approach to see if the fertilised egg will dissolve by itself naturally
- An injection, usually of Methotrexate, is given in very early pregnancy to stop the pregnancy from continuing. This is followed by close monitoring with blood tests and scans.
- Keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) to remove the egg. The affected fallopian tube is also generally removed.
What if there is a failure or delay in diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy?
Should there be a failure to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy then the type of management may be different and have further consequences, such as having to have invasive surgery and having a fallopian tube removed which could otherwise have been saved. This may well affect fertility in the future. In the worst cases, death may result
Compensation in various past ectopic compensation claims has ranged from £410,000 to £11,011. The value of the claim is guided by the severity of the outcome for the patient and their family. For examples of past successful case studies on this website, scroll down to the Success Stories link below. We have a team of specialists in gynaecological cases.
If you feel that you were incorrectly diagnosed and have suffered an avoidable injury as a result, please telephone us and we can discuss your concerns in a confidential manner.