An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that grows in a location other than the lining of the uterus. Most ectopic pregnancies (95%) occur within a fallopian tube. Rare locations include on the cervix, in the abdomen, or on an ovary. An ectopic pregnancy cannot survive because only the uterus can support the growth of a fetus and its placenta. If an ectopic pregnancy bursts a fallopian tube, it is a medical emergency that threatens the life of the mother due to hemorrhage in the abdomen. Ectopic pregnancies occur with a frequency of 1 in 100-200 diagnosed pregnancies.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
Tests may include:
Urine pregnancy test—to verify pregnancy
Pelvic exam—to check for tenderness and size of the uterus
Blood tests—to measure the amount of a pregnancy hormone (quantitative beta-HCG); the level can help determine if the pregnancy is healthy or ectopic, especially if repeated 48 hours later
Culdocentesis—a needle inserted through the vagina and behind the uterus to check for any blood gathering there
—to check the uterus and fallopian tubes for the presence or absence of a pregnancy; this result is coordinated with the blood test (quantitative betaHCG).
—a lighted, thin telescope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen to look for an ectopic pregnancy
If diagnosed while the ectopic pregnancy is still small and has not ruptured, methotrexate (a form of chemotherapy) can be given to some patients to prevent further growth of the ectopic pregnancy and avoid surgery.
Emergency surgery is needed if:
The ectopic pregnancy is judged to be too large for medical treatment or if the patient has other conditions, which would prevent the use of methotrexate, such as a history of kidney or liver disease.
The fallopian tube has burst or ruptured, usually with bleeding into the abdominal cavity.
This surgery can be done through a laparoscope or an open abdominal incision. During the surgery, the pregnancy will be removed. If possible, the doctor will repair your fallopian tube. In some severe cases, the fallopian tube may need to be completely removed.
If you are diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, follow your doctor's
To reduce your risk of ectopic pregnancy:
Maintain safe sexual practices to help avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STD), which can cause damage to the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Get early diagnosis and treatment of STDs
About 50%-85% of the women who have experienced one ectopic pregnancy are later able to achieve a normal pregnancy.
A subsequent ectopic pregnancy may occur in 10%-20% of cases.
occurs in a high percentage of women who have experienced an ectopic pregnancy. Often these women can be helped by an infertility specialist.
The maternal death rate from an ectopic pregnancy in the US has decreased in the last 30 years to less than 0.1%.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a