Womens Health

What Happens When You Have an Ectopic Pregnancy?

If you have an ectopic pregnancy, or know someone who does, it's certainly helpful to understand what will happen next. What will the doctor do? What type of examine will you have to undergo? Will you have medication or will you need surgery? These are all important questions, and ones that you'll want to have answered to alleviate your nerves and to help you to understand the process.

What You'll Experience with an Ectopic Pregnancy

Most of the time, if you experience an ectopic pregnancy, it will feel similar to a miscarriage. You'll have abdominal pain and heavy bleeding. The ectopic pregnancy becomes an emergency if you have a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. In this case, you'll experience lightheadedness and dizziness, a pale complexion and a clammy sensation, sweating, a fast heartbeat and abdominal or pelvic pain that is strong enough to keep you from being able to stand. In this situation, you need to call 911 and get to the hospital immediately.

Seeing Your Doctor

Assuming that you are having an ectopic pregnancy, but don't have a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, you'll want to be seen by your physician. First, the doctor will confirm the pregnancy. If you have severe pains or very heavy bleeding, you'll have an IV started and will be given oxygen. Blood tests will be ordered and the doctor will give you a pelvic exam. You'll usually have an ultrasound of your pelvis taken to see where the pregnancy is located. If the pregnancy can't be detected yet by ultrasound, and you aren't having any heavy bleeding or pelvic pain, then the doctor will recommend special blood tests to be done every two or three days. They will monitor your pregnancy until it has grown large enough so that they can see it on the ultrasound.

Medication Options

If the pregnancy is developing in the fallopian tubes, and it is quite small, you will be able to take medication to stop the tissue from continuing to grow. This medication will also expel the pregnancy. During this process, most women report that they have abdominal pain during the first few days, and vaginal bleeding like a heavy period. You'll need to take blood tests every few days to confirm that the medication has been effective.


In situations where the ectopic pregnancy is either large or outside the fallopian tube, or if there is an indication that you have a lot of bleeding in the abdomen, then surgery will be required. Sometimes, laparoscopic surgery is possible, and will include a small incision in the abdomen and the removal of the ectopic tissue. Sometimes, however, the doctor will need to make a larger incision. During a tubal pregnancy, the fallopian tube must, at times, be removed if the tubal damage is severe.

Avoiding Ectopic Pregnancies

Certainly, your best bet at dealing with an ectopic pregnancy is not to have one! There are a number of prevention methods that you can take to try to decrease your risk. Always take the prescription antibiotics if you have pelvic inflammatory disease, and make sure to follow up with your doctor. Avoid any sexually transmitted diseases by using a diaphragm or cervical cap, or by making sure that your partner uses a condom. If you are hoping to get pregnant, take out your IUD or avoid using one.


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