Treatment for ectopic pregnancy - Ectopic pregnancy

If you have an ectopic pregnancy a senior obstetrician will advise you on the treatment that's most suitable for you.

This will depend on:

  • how many weeks into your pregnancy you are
  • your symptoms, and what the doctor finds during the examination
  • the results of your ultrasound scan and blood tests
  • your personal views and preferences
  • the options available at your hospital

Treatment options might include:

  • medical treatment
  • surgical treatment

Medical treatment

Medical treatment is the injection of a drug called methotrexate. This prevents the ectopic pregnancy from growing.

You may need to return to the clinic or the ward a few days after the injection. You'll be advised on who to contact if you experience any symptoms.

The main advantage of having methotrexate treatment is that you will not need to have surgery or take a general anaesthetic.

It may be the safest option if:

  • your body mass index (BMI) is very high
  • you have had previous surgery on your tummy (abdomen)

Longer wait to get pregnant again

The main disadvantage is having to wait longer to try to get pregnant again.

Methotrexate is a drug used in chemotherapy. It stays in your cells for 12 weeks. You should not try to get pregnant again for 12 weeks after getting methotrexate. Use contraception during this time.

Medical treatment also takes longer to remove the pregnancy than surgery. You'll need to be followed up by your obstetrician for a longer period of time, possibly 3 weeks.

15% of women will need a second injection of methotrexate.

7 in 100 women with an ectopic pregnancy will need to have surgery.

Surgical treatment

This means having an operation under general anaesthetic to remove the ectopic pregnancy.

This is normally a laparoscopy, which is a type of keyhole surgery. A small cut is made in your tummy and the fertilised egg is removed. The fallopian tube, or part of the fallopian tube, is normally removed too.

Open surgery (known as a laparotomy) may be needed if there is internal bleeding, or in an emergency situation. This is done through a larger cut in your tummy.

The medical team will send any tissue removed during an operation to a laboratory to test. Speak to your doctor about what happens after this.

Surgical treatment will treat the ectopic pregnancy more quickly than medical treatment. You may not need to be followed up for as long a period of time.

The recovery time from laparoscopy surgery is usually 4 to 6 weeks.

Discuss your treatment with your doctor

After you've been diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, your doctor should discuss your treatment options with you. This will help you to make an informed decision.

Make sure you understand:

  • all of the treatment options that are available to you
  • any risks of a particular treatment
  • the effects of a particular treatment on future pregnancy

Ask for more information if there is something you do not understand.

Disposing of pregnancy remains

Hospital staff should explain the options available for disposal of the pregnancy remains.

This will be done in a sensitive manner. They will help you make a decision that is right for you.

If you do not wish to make a decision about your pregnancy remains, the hospital can make a decision for you. They can dispose of the remains.

Getting support

Support is available from:

Read about what happens after an ectopic pregnancy.

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.

Page last reviewed: 4 February 2022
Next review due: 4 February 2025