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.
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)
- Prior surgery on fallopian tubes or uterus
- Fertility treatments
- Abnormally-shaped uterus and/or fallopian tubes
- Presence of an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Pregnancy that occurs after a sterilization procedure—tubal ligation
Ectopic pregnancy may cause:
- Missed or abnormal menstrual period
- Abdominal pain
- Spotty vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the shoulder
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be also be done.
Tests may include:
- Pregnancy test
- Pelvic exam
- Blood tests
- Transvaginal ultrasound to check the uterus and fallopian tubes for the presence or absence of a pregnancy
Treatment options include:
If the ectopic pregnancy is small and has not ruptured (burst), your doctor will recommend the a medication that prevents further growth of the ectopic pregnancy.
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.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 05/2015 -
- Update Date: 06/17/2014 -