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Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic Pregnancy Overview

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that develops outside a woman's uterus (womb). This happens when the fertilized egg from the ovary does not reach or implant itself normally in the uterus. Instead, the egg develops somewhere else in the abdomen. The products of this conception are abnormal and cannot develop into fetuses.

  • The most common place that ectopic pregnancy occurs is in one of the Fallopian tubes (a so-called tubal pregnancy). These are the tubes that transport the egg from the ovary to the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies also can be found on the outside of the uterus, on the ovaries, or attached to the bowel.
  • The most serious complication of an ectopic pregnancy is intra-abdominal hemorrhage (severe bleeding). In the case of a tubal pregnancy, for example, as the products of conception continue to grow in the Fallopian tube, the tube expands and eventually ruptures. This can be very dangerous because a large artery runs on the outside of each Fallopian tube. If the artery ruptures, the woman can bleed severely.
  • Ectopic pregnancy is usually found in the first 5-10 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the first trimester of pregnancy in the US.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/12/2015
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