Complications of ectopic pregnancy

Avoiding physical complications

To avoid complications, it is important that an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed as early as possible.

The later an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed and treated, the more likely it is that your fallopian tubes will be damaged, leading to an increased likelihood of having another ectopic pregnancy in the future.

You will also be at a higher risk of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy (when the fallopian tube splits) and severe internal bleeding, which can lead to shock (when your blood pressure suddenly drops to a dangerously low level), and very rarely death (there is around one death a year in England due to an ectopic pregnancy).

In the UK, many women who have an ectopic pregnancy receive early diagnosis and treatment and avoid these types of complications. Some early pregnancy clinics will screen for an ectopic pregnancy using ultrasound in women thought to be at increased risk of having an ectopic pregnancy (such as having a previous history of ectopic pregnancy or pelvic inflammatory disease).

In general, 65% of women achieve a successful pregnancy 18 months after having an ectopic pregnancy.

The emotional impact of an ectopic pregnancy

The loss of a pregnancy can have a profound emotional impact, not only on the woman herself but also on her partner, friends and family.

The most common emotions that are felt after an ectopic pregnancy are grief and bereavement.

Physical symptoms of grief and bereavement include:

  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulties concentrating
  • sleeping problems

Emotional symptoms of grief and bereavement include:

  • guilt
  • shock and numbness
  • anger (sometimes at a partner, or at friends or family members who have had successful pregnancies)
  • an overwhelming sense of sadness and distress

These types of symptoms are often worse four to six weeks after the loss of pregnancy before gradually improving, but it can sometimes take up to 12 months for feelings such as distress to pass.

Getting support

If you are worried that you or your partner are having problems coping with grief, you may need further treatment and counselling. Support groups can provide or arrange counselling for people who have been affected by loss of a pregnancy.

Read more about dealing with loss and counselling.

You can also find bereavement support services in your area.

Your GP can provide you with support and advice and the following organisations can also help:

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