Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside of the 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. 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.
Ectopic pregnancies are more common in women over 35 years old and those who are non-Caucasian. Other factors that may increase your chance of ectopic pregnancy include:
Since you are pregnant you would have had missed or abnormal periods. Ectopic pregnancy may also cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be also be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your uterus and fallopian tubes. This can be done with a transvaginal ultrasound.
You may just be observed if the condition is already resolving. Usually treatment is needed, options include:
If the ectopic pregnancy is small and has not ruptured (burst), a medication that prevents further growth of the ectopic pregnancy may be advised.
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.
To help reduce your chance of an ectopic pregnancy:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Ectopic pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115772/Ectopic-pregnancy. Updated February 9, 2016. Accessed November 21, 2016.
Ectopic pregnancy. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/abnormalities-of-pregnancy/ectopic-pregnancy. Updated January 2014. Accessed November 21, 2016.
Ectopic pregnancy. Planned Parenthood website. Available at:
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/ectopic-pregnancy. Accessed November 21, 2016.
4/22/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115772/Ectopic-pregnancy: Creanga AA, Shapiro-Mendoza CK, Bish CL, Zane S, Berg CJ, Callaghan WM. Trends in ectopic pregnancy mortality in the United States: 1980-2007. Obstet Gynecol. 2011;117(4):837-843.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Marcie Sidman, MD
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