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Ectopic Pregnancy
(Tubal Pregnancy)

Facts and definition of ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy)

Patient Comments
  • An ectopic or tubal 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. 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). 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 rupture. Leading to intra-abdominal hemorrhage (severe bleeding).
  • The most common signs and symptoms of a tubal pregnancy are abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding.
  • Ectopic pregnancy is usually found in the first 5-10 weeks of pregnancy.
  • An ultrasound imaging test is a common diagnostic test for ectopic pregnancy.
  • There are both medical and surgical treatments available for ectopic pregnancy.
  • Ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the first trimester of pregnancy in the US.

What causes an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic or tubal pregnancy is caused when a fertilized egg lodges in a Fallopian tube or other location instead of continuing its journey to the uterus, where it is supposed to implant. The egg can become stuck when a Fallopian tube is damaged, scarred, or distorted.

What are risk factors for ectopic pregnancy?

Common conditions that are known risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Previous tube infections (salpingitis), such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), chlamydia, and gonorrhea
  • Previous surgery inside the abdomen, especially involving the Fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, lower abdomen, or bowels (Local surgery to the outside of the cervix is not a risk factor.)
  • Use of fertility medications at the time of conception
  • Prior history of tubal pregnancy
  • The use of an intrauterine device (IUD) does not increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. However, a normal pregnancy is unlikely with an IUD in place, so if a woman becomes pregnant while using an IUD, it is more likely the pregnancy is not inside the uterus.
Picture of an ectopic pregnancy
Last Reviewed 11/21/2017
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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Ectopic Pregnancy (Tubal Pregnancy):

Ectopic (Tubal) Pregnancy - Signs and Symptoms

What symptoms and signs did you experience with an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic (Tubal) Pregnancy - Treatment

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Ectopic (Tubal) Pregnancy - Experience

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13 Early Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy

Women in the early stages of pregnancy may experience a number of different symptoms that may signal a pregnancy. The experience of pregnancy symptoms is highly individualized and differs among women. Examples of early signs and symptoms of pregnancy may include:

  1. Abdominal cramping and bloating
  2. Frequent urination
  3. Temperature (elevated basal body temperature)
  4. Changes in nipple color
  5. Headaches

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Ectopic Pregnancy »

Ectopic pregnancy presents a major health problem for women of childbearing age.

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