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Ectopic Pregnancy

Definition

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.

Ectopic Pregnancy
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Causes

Many ectopic pregnancies occur because the fallopian tube is not functioning normally.

Risk Factors

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:

Symptoms

Ectopic pregnancy may cause:

  • Missed or abnormal menstrual period
  • 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
  • Fainting

Diagnosis

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.

Treatment

Treatment options include:

Medications

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

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.

Prevention

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.

Revision Information

  • Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

    http://familydoctor.org

  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

    http://www.acog.org

  • The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

    http://www.sogc.org

  • Women's Health Matters

    http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

  • Ectopic pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 9, 2016. Accessed June 7, 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 June 7, 2016.

  • Ectopic pregnancy. Planned Parenthood website. Available at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/ectopic-pregnancy. Accessed June 7, 2016.

  • 4/22/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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.