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Ectopic Pregnancy

Want to know more about ectopic pregnancy? We have all the must-know info here.
ByJames O’Brien, MD
OB-GYN
Updated
March 2, 2017
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What is an ectopic pregnancy?

Normally, the fertilized egg settles and develops in the uterus. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg fails to make it all the way to the uterus and implants instead in the fallopian tube, ovary, cervix or abdomen. The problem is that none of those parts of your body can contain a growing baby. An ectopic pregnancy is a serious medical condition that can actually threaten a woman’s life.

What are the signs of an ectopic pregnancy?

The most common symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are abnormal bleeding and/or pelvic pain in the first trimester. If you experience any of these symptoms — especially if you’re in a high-risk category — contact your health care provider immediately. An undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy could rupture the fallopian tube (or other internal structure) and cause severe internal bleeding and permanent damage to your reproductive system.

Are there any tests for an ectopic pregnancy?

Yes. Your OB will likely do an ultrasound very early in your pregnancy to check baby’s positioning in your uterus. An ectopic pregnancy could also be considered a possibility during a pelvic exam or blood test. If the doc suspects an ectopic pregnancy, you’ll probably be ordered to undergo further testing, such as a D&C laparoscopy or laparotomy.

How common is an ectopic pregnancy?

It happens in anywhere from 1 in 40 to 1 in 100 pregnancies.
 

How did I get an ectopic pregnancy?

You didn’t do anything wrong! But some women are at a higher risk for ectopic pregnancies, including those who’ve had pelvic infection or surgeries, who get pregnant while using an IUD and who smoke. Many women who have an ectopic pregnancy, though, have no known risk factors.
 
How will my ectopic pregnancy affect my baby?

We’re really sorry, but baby can’t survive an ectopic pregnancy — and neither can you — so your doc will remove the developing cells and end the pregnancy.
 
What’s the best way to treat an ectopic pregnancy?

Methotrexate, normally used as a chemotherapy agent, may be used if you’re less than six weeks along. After six weeks, surgery is usually required.
 
What can I do to prevent an ectopic pregnancy?

Sorry, but not much. But you can lower your risk by not smoking.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have an ectopic pregnancy?

Seek medical care immediately. It will save your life. Afterward, seek help for your grief. Regardless of the cause, going through the emotions of a miscarriage is tough to do alone.
 
Are there any other resources for ectopic pregnancy and pregnancy loss?

The Bump Pregnancy Loss message board

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