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28th Feb 2024

What is an ectopic pregnancy and how does it happen?

Kat O'Connor

An ectopic pregnancy affects 1 in 80 pregnancies in Ireland

Knowing the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy is vital because it can affect so many women.

There is a hesitancy to discuss conditions like this in society, but it’s so important to raise awareness about them. Being aware of the symptoms, as well as understanding how it can happen is vital.

They’re not easy conversations to have but discussing it will help elevate the importance of women’s reproductive health in Ireland.

According to the HSE, an ectopic pregnancy occurs when a pregnancy happens outside of your womb.

The pregnancy will not develop into a baby, but it can put your health at risk if you don’t seek medical attention.

During a normal pregnancy, the egg will be released from the fallopian tube and it will be carried from your ovary to your womb.

It will then implant in your womb, but this does not happen during an ectopic pregnancy.

In an ectopic pregnancy, the egg will implant outside of your womb. The egg may also implant in your cervix or ovary.

It may also implant inside your abdomen but this is actually very rare.

If an ectopic pregnancy occurs in your fallopian tube

You may experience bleeding from your vagina or pain early on in the pregnancy if the egg is in your fallopian tube.

You may also suffer from internal bleeding or pain in your abdomen.

If the egg is in the fallopian tube then seeking urgent medical care is key because it can cause the tube to stretch, and even burst.

Doctors will give a patient an injection of methotrexate to stop the pregnancy from developing.

What are the causes?

There is no official known cause for this condition. According to the HSE, some factors can increase your risk of ectopic pregnancy.

They include:

  • You had a previous ectopic pregnancy
  • You had previous surgery on your fallopian tubes
  • Damage to your fallopian tubes caused by infections
  • Smoking
  • Fertility treatments like IVF and ICSI
  • Becoming pregnant when you’re using contraceptives like the coil
  • If you’re over the age of 40 when you get pregnant