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How can you Detect an Ectopic Pregnancy at Home?

Sad woman

Ectopic literally means ‘abnormal place or position’. An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilised egg implants outside the uterus and the embryo begins to develop in that site. The most common location is the fallopian tube, but ectopic pregnancies can also happen in the ovary, abdomen and sometimes in the cervix or a c-section scar

Unfortunately, the fetus can’t develop or survive in sites outside the uterus, which are unable to hold a growing embryo. And there is serious risk to the mother’s health if the ectopic pregnancy is not diagnosed.

How can I detect an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms usually develop from the 4th week of pregnancy. Signs to look for include:

–       Intermittent vaginal bleeding, watery and brownish in colour

–       Persistent sharp abdominal cramps and pain low on one side

–       Nausea and vomiting

–       Shoulder tip pain

–       Urge to go to the toilet, discomfort when doing a pee or a poo, and sometimes diarrhoea.

Sometimes an ectopic pregnancy is only detected during a routine pregnancy ultrasound scan.

If you have experienced one ectopic pregnancy, there is a 10% risk of it happening again. 

Does an ectopic pregnancy show up on a home pregnancy test?

Ectopic pregnancies produce human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone so register as a positive on a home pregnancy test. 

How do doctors diagnose an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is tricky to diagnose because the symptoms can be confused with a healthy pregnancy, with all the typical early signs of pregnancy, including missed periods, tender breasts, and fatigue. And not every woman has symptoms. Or even realises she is pregnant. 

Doctors usually diagnose an ectopic pregnancy with a test to measure hCG in the blood. In an ectopic pregnancy levels of the hormone rise at a slower rate than in a normal pregnancy. A pelvic exam with a transvaginal ultrasound scan then confirms the size and position of the pregnancy.

What happens if an ectopic pregnancy is not detected?

It’s crucial to diagnose ectopic pregnancy early. Unfortunately, the embryo can’t be saved and could mean ruptured fallopian tubes, internal bleeding, or even maternal death if left untreated.

Signs of a fallopian tube rupture include

–       Sudden intense abdominal pain

–       Dizziness and weakness or fainting

–       Feeling nauseous

–       Looking very pale and unwell.

If you notice any symptoms of a ruptured fallopian tube, you must call emergency services at once and go directly to your closest hospital for urgent medical attention.

Treatment for ectopic pregnancy

If a doctor confirms ectopic pregnancy in its early stages, they will probably prescribe a methotrexate injection. Methotrexate stops the cells dividing and halts embryo growth. 

But if the ectopic pregnancy is advanced or ruptured, surgery may be necessary to remove it under general anaesthetic with a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). The surgeon will remove the pregnancy, and may remove the fallopian tube if they decide that is the best approach for the mother’s safety.

An ectopic pregnancy is a distressing and potentially life-threatening event for any woman. If something doesn’t feel right, or if you notice signs or symptoms of a potential ectopic pregnancy go to your nearest healthcare centre at once. 

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