An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that develops outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube.
On rare occasions an ectopic pregnancy can occur in an ovary, in the cervix or in the abdomen. Embryos that implant outside the uterus usually do not survive due to the lack of sufficient blood flow.
Ectopic pregnancy occurs in about two percent of all pregnancies and is more common in women who have other medical conditions, including:
- Endometriosis, which occurs when the tissue normally inside the uterus grows in other areas of the pelvis
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Prior tubal surgery
If you are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, you may have irregular bleeding and pain on one side of your pelvis or abdomen. Your physician may use one of the following procedures to diagnose ectopic pregnancy:
- A blood test to determine the level of the pregnancy hormone HCG
- An ultrasound to detect a fetus or pregnancy tissues in your body
- A minimally invasive procedure called a laparoscopy, which uses a tiny camera to look inside your abdominal cavity
Without proper treatment, ectopic pregnancy can cause your fallopian tube to rupture, which can result in severe bleeding, hemorrhage and shock. If you are experiencing symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, it is important to call your physician right away.
Treatment options for ectopic pregnancy depend on whether your fallopian tube has ruptured, the development of the pregnancy and your level of HCG, or pregnancy hormone.
Treatments may include:
- Allowing the ectopic pregnancy to heal and be absorbed on its own
- Administering a drug called methotrexate to stop development of the pregnancy
- Surgery, usually by laparoscopy
- Salpingostomy, a procedure during which the embryo is removed through a small opening in the fallopian tube
- Total or partial salpingectomy to remove all or part of the damaged fallopian tube
- Laparotomy, a procedure that removes the ectopic pregnancy or your damaged fallopian tube through an incision in your abdomen
Need more information?
Talk to your doctor if you have questions about pregnancy complications.