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Posted on 21st April 2017

Can You Make a Negligence Claim for an Ectopic Pregnancy

  • Most negligence cases involving ectopic pregnancy are related to delayed diagnosis or errors in treatment
  • Ectopic pregnancies are rarely caused by negligence

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg starts to develop outside of the womb, usually in the fallopian tubes. Though the egg implants itself, it won’t be able to develop into a baby and the pregnancy sadly cannot be saved.

Most negligence cases involving ectopic pregnancy are related to delayed diagnosis or errors in treatment. In some cases you can make a claim.

If the pregnancy continues it can pose a serious risk to a mother’s health, so a doctor needs to intervene and terminate the pregnancy.


There aren’t always symptoms of ectopic pregnancies other than the usual signs of pregnancy. Often, this kind of pregnancy is simply picked up during a routine scan. If symptoms are displayed, this will normally happen between the 4th and 12th weeks.

Some common signs of ectopic pregnancy are:

  • A missed period and the usual signs of pregnancy
  • Low tummy pain on one side
  • Vaginal bleeding or brown watery discharge
  • Pain in the tip of your shoulder
  • Discomfort when going to the toilet

What causes it?

It’s not always easy to establish the cause of an ectopic pregnancy, but there are certain factors that can make such a pregnancy more likely. Some of the causes of ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Previous ectopic pregnancy
  • Previous surgery on your fallopian tubes
  • Fertility treatment, such as IVF
  • Becoming pregnant while using an intrauterine device
  • Smoking
  • Increasing age

How is it treated?

If the pregnancy is small it will sometimes dissolve on its own. In these situations, your gynaecologist will closely monitor the pregnancy to keep track of its progress and your health – no treatment is necessary.

If the pregnancy is spotted reasonably early but is too big to dissolve by itself, medication is normally prescribed to stop the pregnancy from continuing. Your doctor will regularly check to see whether the medication is working, and sometimes a second dose will be needed.

The third option, if the pregnancy has progressed too far is surgery. When surgery is required either the whole fallopian tube will be removed or, where possible, only a section.

How often do ectopic pregnancies happen?

They are a reasonably rare complication – about 2% of pregnant women have an ectopic pregnancy.

When can negligence occur during an ectopic pregnancy?

The development of an ectopic pregnancy isn’t likely to happen because of negligence, though in rare situations it might. Most negligence related to ectopic pregnancy happens in the following situations:

  • When there is a delay in diagnosis of the ectopic pregnancy. This can put the mother’s life in danger when errors in treatment occur. The most common errors are:
    • Removal of the wrong fallopian tube.
    • Removing both fallopian tubes when it is only necessary to remove one. This can seriously affect fertility.
  • Errors in post-treatment care.

Can ectopic pregnancies be misdiagnosed?

On occasion, ectopic pregnancies are diagnosed when the pregnancy is actually perfectly healthy and normal. According to one study, this happens in as many as one in 40 pregnancies. When this does occur, unnecessary treatment can be given which can cause the miscarriage of a healthy pregnancy. These are often incidences of medical negligence.

How do I know if my experience counts as negligence?

Ectopic pregnancies can be really difficult even when everything goes to plan. When something goes wrong the experience can be traumatic. Every case is individual, so the only way to clarify whether your situation is likely to count as negligence is to contact a solicitor and ask for advice. Generally, if your diagnosis has been delayed or there have been mistakes made during treatment, as outlined above, then you will have a case. Like all claims, your situation has to match up to the three point rule in order to have a legitimate claim in the eyes of the law.

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