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.
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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:
- Previous ectopic pregnancies
- History of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and related scar tissue
- Prior surgery on fallopian tubes or uterus and related scar tissue
- Fertility treatments
- Abnormally-shaped uterus and/or fallopian tubes
- Presence of an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Pregnancy that occurs after a sterilization procedure—tubal ligation
Since you are pregnant you would have had missed or abnormal periods. Ectopic pregnancy may also cause:
- Abdominal pain
- Spotty vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the shoulder or neck due to irritation of the breathing muscle by blood from a rupture ectopic pregnancy
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:
- Pregnancy test
- Pelvic exam
- Blood tests
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:
To help reduce your chance of an ectopic pregnancy:
- Maintain safe sexual practices to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) , which can damage to the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
- Get early diagnosis and treatment of STDs.