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An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside of the womb (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 because only the uterus can support the growth of a fetus and its placenta.
Many ectopic pregnancies occur because the fallopian tube is not functioning normally.
Factors that may increase the risk 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 )
- Race: non-white
- Age: 35 or older
Symptoms may include:
- 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 medicine methotrexate. This medicine 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.
Last reviewed June 2014 by Michael Woods, 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.