Conception is often possible after ectopic pregnancy, but it can take some time for the physical and emotional scars to heal.
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg implants itself somewhere other than inside the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies rarely produce symptoms – other than normal early pregnancy symptoms – and are often picked up at the initial scan. Sometimes, the egg will go on to dissolve by itself, but other women may need medication or surgery to remove the egg, often along with the affected fallopian tube. Sadly, ectopic pregnancies cannot be carried successfully to term. For women who have suffered an ectopic pregnancy, the experience can be devastating. It takes time, not only to recover physically after treatment but to process the feelings of grief that accompany the loss of any pregnancy. Although an ectopic pregnancy may reduce the chances of natural conception, many women do go on to successfully carry a baby to term.
Here is everything you need to know about trying to conceive after ectopic pregnancy.
How long do I have to wait to try to conceive?
Every case is different, and you should speak to your doctor to get advice on your unique situation before trying to conceive. However, for most women, the answer is three months or two full menstrual cycles before they should begin trying for another baby. This is to allow time for any internal swelling or bruising to reduce and for your cycle to return to its regular rhythm. Remember, any initial bleed following an ectopic pregnancy is not a proper period but part of your body repairing following the ectopic pregnancy itself. You may also find that your first period following the pregnancy is heavier than usual. Use this time to recuperate and to allow yourself to grieve and process the complex emotions that often arise from an ectopic pregnancy.
Will I have another ectopic pregnancy?
Women who have suffered an ectopic pregnancy are at a slightly higher risk of suffering one in the future. The risk of any future pregnancy being ectopic increases to around 10%. However, many women do go on to successfully carry a baby – 65% of women who have suffered ectopic pregnancy achieve a healthy pregnancy within 18 months of their loss. If you do get pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy, it’s best to tell your GP as soon as possible. They may recommend an early scan or specialised care.
Will I ovulate in the same way if I only have one fallopian tube?
Many women worry that having one fallopian tube will halve their chances of pregnancy, but this is not how the ovulation process works. The fallopian tubes are not attached to the ovaries. The fallopian tube and uterus are, instead, packed with receptor cells which are ‘switched on’ when you ovulate. These attract the egg, causing it to travel down the tube and towards the womb. The fallopian tubes also have long, thin structures called the fimbriae which move gently to create a vacuum and draw the egg towards them. Women with one fallopian tube only have a single set of receptors and fimbriae meaning it is very likely that an egg from either ovary will travel towards the single, functional fallopian tube.
Is there anything I can do to reduce the chances of ectopic pregnancy?
Most of the time, no. Most ectopic pregnancies are not caused by lifestyle factors. Although smoking, previous abdominal surgery, and a history of endometriosis all increase risk levels. Women over 35 are also more likely to suffer from ectopic pregnancy than younger women.
Another cause of ectopic pregnancy is infection. If you suffer from persistent stomach pain following an ectopic pregnancy, it’s important to visit your GP. You may be suffering from an ongoing infection that could increase the chances of ectopic pregnancy in the future.
Women who have suffered ectopic pregnancy should also try to follow the recommendations given to any woman who is trying to conceive – eat a healthy balanced diet, exercise regularly, reduce your alcohol intake, and cut out cigarettes or tobacco products.
Will I need fertility treatment?
Some women who suffer an ectopic pregnancy may need further support or fertility treatment; others will conceive naturally. Women who struggle to get pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy are often good candidates for IVF as this method bypasses the fallopian tubes entirely. However, each case and each woman is unique. If you are concerned that you have been unable to conceive naturally, you should speak to your GP who can offer further advice and options about the fertility support available through the NHS.
Is there a pregnancy test that can tell me if my pregnancy is ectopic?
Sadly, no. Pregnancy tests simply measure the level of the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), in your urine or blood. An ectopic pregnancy will cause your levels of hCG to rise in the same way as a healthy pregnancy. Only an ultrasound scan can confirm an ectopic pregnancy, but if you have previously suffered one, your doctor may recommend an early scan.
Where can I get further support following my ectopic pregnancy?
If you are struggling to conceive following an ectopic pregnancy or experiencing ongoing symptoms, it is important to speak to your GP. They may be able to refer you for further testing or treatment. There are also several organisations in the UK who can offer support and help you to connect with women in similar situations. The Miscarriage Association also provides specialised support and advice for women who have been through ectopic pregnancy.