In an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo (the fertilized egg) implants in an area of the reproductive tract other than the uterus. Although the most common location for an ectopic pregnancy is the fallopian tube, in rare cases it can also implant in the ovary or abdomen. Ectopic pregnancies are not viable, which means that the embryo cannot develop into a healthy fetus, and they present a serious danger to the woman's body. They require immediate treatment. Once treatment is complete, the patient begins the sometimes difficult process of recovery.
Method 1 of 2: Recover Physically
Step 1. Understand your treatment options
How you and your doctor choose to treat an ectopic pregnancy will depend on your health, the location of the ectopic pregnancy, and the extent of damage to your reproductive organs.
- Some ectopic pregnancies are eliminated by the woman's body. If your ectopic pregnancy is very early and you don't have negative symptoms, your doctor may recommend "expectant management" or "active monitoring." With this process, you wait about a month, with frequent doctor supervision, to see if your body can resolve the ectopic pregnancy without further treatment. In general, this approach only makes sense when your levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone produced during pregnancy, are low and dropping or when you have no symptoms.
- If the ectopic pregnancy was diagnosed very early and you don't have internal bleeding, your doctor may suggest a methotrexate injection. Methotrexate will stop the growth of rapidly dividing cells, including pregnancy tissue (so it is important to rule out a normal pregnancy). It may take a couple of injections for this method to fully work.
- Laparoscopic salpingostomy is a procedure that removes the pregnancy tissue without removing any part of the fallopian tube. This treatment is generally appropriate for early ectopic pregnancies, when the fallopian tube has not ruptured. Most surgical treatments for ectopic pregnancies use laparoscopy, which is performed under general anesthesia and involves using a small tube with a camera and a light that is inserted through a small incision.
- Total salpingectomy may be necessary if the fallopian tube is badly damaged, if you have very heavy bleeding, or in the case of a large ectopic pregnancy. In a total salpingectomy, the fallopian tube containing the ectopic pregnancy is removed.
- Laparotomy is abdominal surgery that is usually required in emergencies, such as ruptured fallopian tubes or heavy bleeding. Laparotomies involve larger incisions and longer recovery times than laparoscopies.
Step 2. Ask your doctor about the physical recovery process
Recovery time depends on the specific type of procedure that has been performed.
- With laparoscopic surgeries, you can usually go home the same day as the surgery. Recovery is fairly quick and most women can walk again soon. Generally, you can resume your regular activities in 7 to 14 days. It may take about a month to fully recover from a laparoscopy.
- Laparotomy surgeries generally require several days in the hospital. This is because the incision is longer and interferes with the functioning of your intestines. You will receive clear fluids the morning after surgery and begin to eat solid foods within 24 to 36 hours. Laparotomy incisions can take up to 6 weeks to heal.
- While very little physical recovery may be necessary for early-stage ectopic pregnancies that do not require surgery, your doctor will carefully monitor your health to ensure that the ectopic pregnancy resolves on its own.
Step 3. Avoid exercise or excessive physical activity
You can start to feel better within a few days after surgery. Don't force your body by exercising or doing too much physical activity. You should also avoid any movement that can stretch or put pressure on your incisions.
- Don't lift anything that weighs more than 20 pounds for the first week.
- Go up stairs slowly, pausing after every few steps.
- Walk whenever you feel capable. Don't try to jog or run.
Step 4. Wait for constipation
Abdominal surgery can interfere with the functioning of your intestines and cause constipation. Your doctor will provide you with instructions on how to treat it. Some things you can do on your own include:
- eat foods rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products;
- Drink enough water;
- use laxatives (as recommended by your doctor).
Step 5. Prepare for regular tests at the hospital
If you had a salpingostomy or were treated with a methotrexate injection, you will need to have regular tests to determine if the hCG levels in your blood have returned to zero. If not, you may need additional treatment with methotrexate.
Step 6. Wait for some pain
There are many possible reasons why you would experience pain after an ectopic pregnancy. Incisions can take time to heal, and the resulting scar tissue can also cause pain. If the pain becomes persistent, serious, or unmanageable, contact your doctor.
- Pain can also be caused by your body trying to resume its normal menstrual cycle. Your body can return to its normal cycle 4-6 weeks after treatment, although it may take longer.
- Some women report that they are more aware of ovulation after an ectopic pregnancy. They may experience pain when ovulating.
Step 7. Recognize the symptoms that you should seek medical assistance
Pain is generally your body's way of telling you to rest. However, if you have any of the following symptoms along with the pain, you should contact your doctor:
- fever (above 38 ° C or 100 ° F);
- vaginal discharge, especially if it smells "fishy" or has a foul odor;
- bumps or bumps around the incision or scar that are red or hot to the touch;
- discharge from the incision site;
- nausea or vomiting;
- dizziness or fainting.
Step 8. Discuss birth control with your doctor
After an ectopic pregnancy, you may not be able to use some methods of birth control. You should discuss your options with your doctor to determine what will work best for you.
- IUDs and progesterone-only contraceptives are generally not recommended after an ectopic pregnancy.
- You should also talk with your doctor to determine when it is safe to have sex again. This will largely be determined by the treatment you have received.
Step 9. Wait to get pregnant again
If your ectopic pregnancy was treated with methotrexate, your doctor will advise you on how long to wait before trying to get pregnant again. This is generally around one to three months depending on the dose you have received. Methotrexate can cause problems for an early pregnancy by reducing the availability of folic acid to the fetus, so you have to wait until the medication has cleared your system.
Method 2 of 2: Recover Emotionally
Step 1. Understand that your feelings are natural
An ectopic pregnancy is a physically and emotionally exhausting experience. There are several reasons why you might feel angry, worried, or sad. Know that these feelings are natural and that nothing is "wrong" with you. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to feel.
- Your body's hormonal balance has been in constant flux. This can lead to depressive symptoms. It can also cause symptoms such as heart palpitations, agitation, and dizziness.
- Although your body cannot carry an ectopic pregnancy to term, it can be devastating to learn that your pregnancy must be terminated.
- You may be concerned about your health and your ability to have another pregnancy.
- You can blame yourself or feel guilty. Know that ectopic pregnancies are not your fault.
- Recovering from major surgery can put more stress on your emotions.
Step 2. Ask your doctor about therapy
Your hospital or community clinic may be able to refer you to therapists with special training in problems related to pregnancy. Losing a pregnancy and having major surgery are experiences that you may find helpful to discuss with a mental health professional.
- You may also want to involve your partner in therapy. Some people may have a hard time expressing their feelings, and attending therapy together can help both of you get through these difficult times.
- It is a common myth that men do not mourn the loss of a pregnancy. However, research suggests that this is not true. Men may express grief differently than women, but they may also experience anger or depression after their partners lose a pregnancy.
Step 3. Talk to your friends or family
There is nothing that says you should speak if you don't want to. However, you may find that it helps to get support from those closest to you. Find friends or family who are not afraid to acknowledge your loss and provide you with the support you need to get through these difficult times.
Step 4. Find a support group
One of the most important elements that aid recovery is not feeling alone. You may find that a support group where you can talk to other people who have had similar experiences helps you process your feelings.
- If you live in the US, RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, has support groups across the country. You can find a listing on their website.
- SHARE Child and Pregnancy Loss Support also has local support groups in the US You can find a support group in your area on their website.
- In the UK, the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust and the Miscarriage Association offer resources and therapy for women who have lost pregnancies.
- You may find that online support forums also provide a space for you to talk about your feelings. The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust maintains online forums supervised by medical professionals where you can discuss your experience and share your feelings.
Step 5. Treat yourself with kindness
Some women find that doing something special for themselves helps them deal with the difficult days after an ectopic pregnancy. A trip to the spa or a similar walk can ease sadness and provide needed pampering. You may just want to sit on the couch and watch your favorite movies. Give yourself the love you need.
Don't feel guilty for treating yourself with kindness. An ectopic pregnancy can be physically and emotionally draining, and you need time to recover
Step 6. Get exercise once it's safe
Exercising after your recovery is complete can be an effective way to minimize sadness and regain lost energy. Physical activity releases happiness-causing hormones called endorphins into the body, which are a natural mood booster. Ask your doctor when you can start an exercise regimen.
Don't do anything high-impact or vigorous without consulting your doctor
Step 7. Talk to your doctor before trying to get pregnant again after an ectopic pregnancy
Your doctor will tell you when your body is physically ready and will advise you on the potential risk of another ectopic pregnancy. Some risk factors include smoking, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and a previous ectopic pregnancy. Those women who are at risk will be monitored during a subsequent pregnancy in order to detect potential problems and treat them early.
Consider visiting a reproductive endocrinologist, who is a trained obstetrician with a subspecialty in fertility treatment. You will need an evaluation of your fallopian tubes, for example, and this type of doctor is the best person to provide it. Search the Internet to find one in your area
- More than half of women who have an ectopic pregnancy can have a healthy pregnancy later. Some studies suggest that up to 85% of women who want to get pregnant can conceive within two years after an ectopic pregnancy.
- An ectopic pregnancy does reduce your chances of getting pregnant again and increases your risk of having another ectopic pregnancy.
- An ectopic pregnancy can be a life-threatening medical problem. It cannot develop into a healthy fetus. You must seek treatment.
- If you are pregnant and have abdominal pain, dizziness, weakness, diarrhea or painful urine or bowel movements, seek medical attention immediately.