An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that grows outside of the womb. It occurs in around one in every 100 pregnancies.
In a normal pregnancy, the fertilised egg will travel along the fallopian tube and will eventually implant into the lining of the uterus, where it will develop. In 95 per cent of ectopic pregnancies, the embryo will travel along the fallopian tube but, instead of implanting into the lining of the uterus, it will implant into the wall of the fallopian tube. This normally happens if the tube is blocked, damaged or narrowed as the embryo is unable to continue its journey to the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancy within a fallopian tube is an extremely serious medical emergency, and can be fatal. As the pregnancy continues and the embryo grows, it places pressure on the fallopian tube and begins to cause pain and bleeding. Eventually, the tube can burst and cause internal bleeding.
An ectopic pregnancy is normally discovered between the fourth and tenth week of pregnancy, although symptoms can begin two weeks after a missed period.
Once discovered, the pregnancy has to be removed from the woman's body. Sadly, there is no way of saving the pregnancy.
Anyone can suffer from an ectopic pregnancy, although there are some factors that increase the risk. These include suffering from conditions such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease; sexually transmitted diseases; previous abdominal surgery; or a pregnancy created by IVF.