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
- History of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and related scar tissue
- Prior surgery on fallopian tubes or uterus and related scar tissue
- Fertility treatments
- Abnormally-shaped uterus and/or fallopian tubes
- Presence of an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Pregnancy that occurs after a sterilization procedure—tubal ligation
Since you are pregnant you would have had missed or abnormal periods. Ectopic pregnancy may also cause:
- Abdominal pain
- Spotty vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the shoulder or neck due to irritation of the breathing muscle by blood from a rupture ectopic pregnancy
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 test
- Pelvic exam
- Blood 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.
- Marcie Sidman, MD
- Reviewed: 11/2016
- Updated: 06/17/2014
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