Is my pregnancy ectopic?
If you suspect that you, or someone else, are suffering from an ectopic pregnancy then read below to find out what the symptoms are.
If you are a woman of childbearing age and have recently been sexually active, then pains in your lower tummy which make you question what might be wrong area may be due to many things. They could, however, be due to an ectopic pregnancy and you should take pain that concerns you seriously until proved otherwise. The pain may have begun suddenly and there may or may not have been slight bleeding from your vagina.
- One-sided pain in your tummy
- This can be persistent and severe, but may not be on the same side as an ectopic pregnancy
- Shoulder-tip pain
Shoulder tip pain is the typical pain of a deteriorating ectopic pregnancy. It tends to develop after you have been aware of feeling unwell or having other symptoms of vaginal bleeding and pain.
Shoulder tip pain
This may be due to internal bleeding irritating the diaphragm (the muscle in your chest which helps you to breathe) when you breathe in and out. Shoulder tip pain is exactly where it says – not the neck or the back but the tip of your shoulder. If you look to the left over your shoulder and then cast your eyes down, the tip of your shoulder is where your shoulder ends and your arm starts.
Shoulders cause pain when we are stressed because we hold ourselves more rigidly, and muscles in the back and neck go in to spasm – this is not shoulder tip pain. Shoulder tip pain is very distinctive. You know when you have it because it is a very ‘weird’ pain you have probably never had in your life before (unless you had pain of this nature with gall stones).
If you take 2 paracetamol, which are known to be safe in pregnancy providing you have taken this medicine in the past without problems, apply a cold pack to your shoulder for 10 minutes, and 30 minutes later your shoulder pain has eased, that is unlikely to be ectopic related shoulder pain. However if in any doubt consult your doctor about it.
Bladder or Bowel Problems
If you feel pain when you have your bowels open (go for a poo) or when you pass water (have a pee) and think you may be pregnant, you should mention this when you go for a check-up.
You may be feeling light-headed or faint, and often this is accompanied by a feeling of something being very wrong. Other signs such as paleness, increasing pulse rate, sickness, diarrhoea and falling blood pressure may also be present.
This may be positive but not always. Specialised hCG blood tests are sometimes required to confirm this.
If you don’t know whether you are pregnant but find yourself having an unusual period, it may be due to a number of causes, one of which might be an ectopic pregnancy, particularly if you have had a coil (IUCD) fitted.
If your bleeding is heavier or lighter than usual and prolonged, or if, unlike your normal monthly period, this bleeding is slight, dark and watery, sometimes described as looking like ‘prune juice’, then you should tell your doctor as soon as possible.
A missed or late period
If you have missed one or more periods, the most likely reason is that you have a normal pregnancy. However the fact that you may experience normal pregnancy symptoms e.g. nausea, painful breasts or a swollen abdomen but no bleeding does not completely rule out an ectopic pregnancy.
If you also experience one or more of the first four symptoms and pains described above, you should certainly tell your doctor about them. In the first place you should go to your own doctor and explain the symptoms you are feeling. If you are away from home, or if it is outside normal surgery hours, you should go to the nearest hospital with an Accident and Emergency department. On UK road signs these are indicated by a large white letter H on a RED-coloured background. Find your nearest Accident and Emergency department.
GPs and hospital doctors may have difficulty reaching a diagnosis because symptoms may occur from almost immediately you are pregnant (4 weeks) up to 12 weeks or even later. There are many other causes of lower tummy pain and this is why it is worth getting checked out if you have any concerns about a pain in pregnancy or any abdominal pain as described, whether or not you know you are pregnant.