Ectopic pregnancy: Woman describes 'excruciating pain' in hope others will recognise symptoms

  • By ITV Wales journalist Katie Fenton

A woman recovering from an ectopic pregnancy has described the "excruciating pain" and other symptoms she experienced in the hope of raising awareness.

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes.

They affect around one in 80 pregnancies in the UK, and can be fatal if left untreated. It is not possible to save an ectopic pregnancy.

Mia Pole, from Cardiff, underwent emergency surgery to have her fallopian tube removed after being diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy.

Doctors initially thought she'd had a miscarriage, but pregnancy tests continued to come back as positive.

She has since shared her experience on social media, and received more than 100 supportive messages from others who have been through the same.

Describing the symptoms, she said: "On the first day, I woke up in excruciating pain and I could kind of pinpoint it.

"My period was coming up, so I was expecting my period and I do get painful periods anyway, especially that first day.

"But then I was like, I'm going to do a pregnancy test to be sure because this seems like it's not exactly how it was, so I did a test and it was positive."

Mia has been sharing educational posts about her experience on social media.

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can include a missed period and other signs of pregnancy, or pain in the tip of the shoulder. 

"I think for me personally, I was aware of ectopics before," Mia explained.

"But even with the awareness and the knowledge of it, it was still very like, wow this is a lot to take in.

"It went from miscarriage, accepting that, something's wrong, worrying about that, then surgery straight away and then recovery, but I'm just grateful that they did find it when they did."

How is an ectopic pregnancy treated?

Expectant management

This involves being carefully monitored and one of the treatments below is used if the fertilised egg doesn't dissolve by itself, the NHS website states.

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An injection of a strong medicine called methotrexate is used to stop the pregnancy growing.

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Keyhole surgery is performed under general anaesthetic to remove the fertilised egg, usually along with the affected fallopian tube.

In many cases, particular treatment will be recommended based on a patient's symptoms and the results of the tests they have.

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Dr Laurie Montgomery Irvine, who founded the Ectopic Pregnancy Foundation, said cases have been increasing over the years.

Explaining what can happen in the worst cases, he said: "If diagnosed early there are treatment options available to us.

"If there's a delay, or not making the diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy, what can happen is in the fallopian tube the pregnancy can grow, it can lead to stretching of the fallopian tube, and eventually the tube could rupture.

"[This could lead] to severe inter-abdominal bleeding, which obviously you can't see from the outside, but that can lead to major problems with low blood pressure, feeling faint, and in very rare cases it can actually lead to mortality."

  • The symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, explained by expert Dr Laurie Montgomery Irvine

Preventing the worst case scenario is exactly what inspired Mia to share her story online.

"People were telling me that they didn't know about it, people were telling me how much they learnt from it.

"I had someone from America message me because they saw my post, they were going through the same thing, but they had no idea of anything about it so they were so thankful that I'd shared.

"Pregnancy loss, that's like one in four, so that alone is a huge figure, and people are aware of miscarriage.

"So I think ectopic [pregnancy] is just as important, so I just wanted to share my personal experience in hopes that people will be able to recognise it if it does happen to them."

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