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If your pregnancy doesn't show on an ultrasound scan

A pregnancy that doesn't show on an ultrasound scan is called a 'pregnancy of unknown location'.

The most common reasons for a pregnancy not appearing on the ultrasound scan are:

Next steps

Your obstetrician and midwives will need to do a series of blood tests. This is to find out where your pregnancy is developing. The tests check your pregnancy hormone levels and monitor how they are changing.

They will also need to do ultrasound scans. It can take a number of scans before it is clear whether your pregnancy is developing in the womb, or you've had a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. This can take several weeks, and it can be difficult for you and your partner.

Urgent advice: Contact your maternity hospital if

you have any of the following symptoms:

  • severe pain in your tummy
  • pain across the shoulders
  • bleeding from the vagina
  • fainting
  • feeling unwell

What to avoid

You can continue normal activities. As this is an upsetting time, you may need time off work. Some people prefer the distraction of work. Do what you feel able for and what feels right for you.

Most obstetricians will tell you to avoid:

  • travelling outside of the country until the location of your pregnancy is known
  • strenuous exercise
  • sex

Getting support

Your obstetrician, midwife and GP will understand that this is a very difficult time for you. Do not hesitate to contact your healthcare team for more help or support during this period of monitoring.

Your obstetrician will explain what is happening. They can also explain why the diagnosis is taking a longer time than you might have expected.

Ultrasound scans offered during pregnancy

Page last reviewed: 9 December 2021
Next review due: 9 December 2024

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