An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside of the uterus. Most ectopic pregnancies occur within a fallopian tube. Other, less common locations may include the cervix, an ovary, or the abdominal cavity. This type of pregnancy cannot survive. Only the uterus can support the growth of a fetus and its placenta.
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Many ectopic pregnancies occur because the fallopian tube is not functioning normally.
Ectopic pregnancies are more common in women over 35 years old and those who are non-Caucasian. Other factors that may increase your chance of ectopic pregnancy include: Previous ectopic pregnancies
pelvic inflammatory disease
and related scar tissueEndometriosisPrior surgery on fallopian tubes or uterus and related scar tissueFertility treatmentsAbnormally-shaped uterus and/or fallopian tubes
Presence of an
intrauterine device (IUD)
Pregnancy that occurs after a sterilization procedure—tubal ligationSmoking
Since you are pregnant you would have had missed or abnormal periods. Ectopic pregnancy may also cause: Abdominal painSpotty vaginal bleedingPain in the shoulder or neck due to irritation of the breathing muscle by blood from a rupture ectopic pregnancyFainting
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be also be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with: Pregnancy testPelvic examBlood tests
Images may be taken of your uterus and fallopian tubes. This can be done with a transvaginal ultrasound.
You may just be observed if the condition is already resolving. Usually treatment is needed, options include:
If the ectopic pregnancy is small and has not ruptured (burst), a medication that prevents further growth of the ectopic pregnancy may be advised.
Surgery may be needed, especially if the ectopic pregnancy has ruptured or if it is not in the fallopian tube. During the surgery, the pregnancy will be removed.
If the pregnancy is in the fallopian tube, the doctor may be able to repair the tube. In severe cases, the fallopian tube may need to be removed.
To help reduce your chance of an ectopic pregnancy:
Maintain safe sexual practices to avoid
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
, which can damage to the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Get early diagnosis and treatment of STDs.
Ectopic pregnancy. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/abnormalities-of-pregnancy/ectopic-pregnancy. Updated January 2014. Accessed November 21, 2016.
Ectopic pregnancy. Planned Parenthood website. Available at:
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/ectopic-pregnancy. Accessed November 21, 2016.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Marcie Sidman, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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