What is an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancy is the development of an embryo outside the uterus, or womb. Development may occur in a fallopian tube, the site through which the egg travels to the uterus in a healthy pregnancy. Other sites for ectopic pregnancies include the ovary, cervix, and within the abdomen.

Ectopic pregnancies are caused by an obstruction hindering the normal movement of the egg after fertilization along the path from the fallopian tubes to the womb. Reasons for this blockage include a physical obstruction brought on by scarring from previous ectopic pregnancies or inflammation of the fallopian tubes (salpingitis) or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs. This accounts for 98% of all ectopic pregnancies. Other potential causes of ectopic pregnancy include congenital fallopian tube defects, endometriosis, pelvic scarring from previous surgeries – including caesarean section, or a ruptured appendix.

Ectopic pregnancies occur in one of 40 to one of every 100 pregnancies (1.0-2.5% incidence). There is seasonal variation with increased frequency in June and December although the reasons are unclear. They can occur in women who have had tubal litigation (their fallopian tubes tied), but are more likely to occur two to three years following the procedure (Source: NIH).

Rupture of an ectopic pregnancy can lead to shock, a potentially life-threatening condition.Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have serious symptoms such as bleeding, fainting, intense rectal pressure, shoulder pain, or severe lower abdominal pain during pregnancy or when pregnancy is suspected.

If you suspect you may be pregnant, seek prompt medical care.


What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

Symptoms of ectopic pregnancies involve the reproductive system and may mimic symptoms of menstrual cramping and bleeding.

Common symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy

Symptoms range from mild to severe, if there has been a rupture. Symptoms include:


What causes an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancy is caused by an obstacle blocking the path of the fertilized egg from the fallopian tubes to the uterus (womb), where it normally implants. Instead, the egg remains in the fallopian tube or at another location outside of the uterus.

Causes of an ectopic pregnancy

Causes of ectopic pregnancy include the following:


How is an ectopic pregnancy treated?

To diagnose an ectopic pregnancy, your health care provider will perform diagnostic tests, including checking your levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone measured in a pregnancy test. Low levels of hCG and progesterone may indicate that a pregnancy is not developing normally.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment will involve ending the pregnancy. Pregnancy... Read more about ectopic pregnancytreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.