An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that develops outside of the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. It occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus.

This condition is considered a medical emergency because if left untreated, it can cause life-threatening bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy cannot proceed normally. The fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue might destroy various maternal structures.

The symptoms can include pelvic pain, light vaginal bleeding, and more severe symptoms like sharp waves of pain in the abdomen, pelvis, shoulder, or neck if the ectopic pregnancy cause rupture and bleeding.

Ectopic pregnancy

If an ectopic pregnancy is suspected, the physician may run a series of tests like ultrasounds or blood tests to confirm it. The treatment options mainly include medication or surgery to remove the ectopic tissue.

Causes of Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus. It’s commonly caused by conditions that affect the shape and condition of the Fallopian tubes or cause blockage in them. Here are some of the main causes:

1. Inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes: This can occur from conditions such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which can be caused by sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea or chlamydia, or other health conditions.

2. Structural abnormalities: Congenital abnormalities, or changes due to surgery, can change the shape of the fallopian tubes and lead to an ectopic pregnancy.

3. Previous ectopic pregnancy: If you’ve had one ectopic pregnancy, you’re more likely to have another.

4. Fertility treatments: If you’re receiving fertility treatments such as IVF, you have a higher risk of an ectopic pregnancy.

5. Hormonal imbalances: Sometimes, problems with the hormonal environment can lead to abnormalities in the implantation process.

6. Use of an Intrauterine device (IUD): This device very effectively prevents most pregnancies, but if pregnancy occurs with an IUD in place, it’s more likely to be ectopic.

It’s important to note that sometimes ectopic pregnancies can happen with no apparent cause.

Risk Factors of Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the main cavity of the uterus, often in the fallopian tubes. This is a potentially dangerous condition as the fetus can’t develop properly outside the uterus and the growing tissue might cause life-threatening bleeding if left untreated. Here are the risk factors associated with ectopic pregnancy:

1. Previous Ectopic Pregnancy: If you’ve had one ectopic pregnancy, you’re much more likely to have another.

2. Inflammation or Infection: Sexually transmitted infections or other diseases can cause inflammation in the tubes and other nearby organs, leading to increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.

3. Fertility Treatments: Some research suggests that women who have in vitro fertilization (IVF) or similar treatments are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy.

4. Tubal Surgery: Surgery in the fallopian tubes, such as sterilization surgery, can lead to scarring and blockage, increasing the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.

5. Choice of birth control: Certain forms of birth control may increase your risk. For example, while tubal ligation is very efficient at preventing most pregnancies, if pregnancy does happen the risk of it being ectopic is higher than average.

6. Age: The risk of ectopic pregnancy can increase with age, particularly after age 35.

7. Smoking: Cigarette smoking just before you get pregnant can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. The more you smoke, the greater the risk.

8. Previous Pelvic or abdominal surgery: This can cause adhesions that can affect the tubes.

9. Certain Medical Conditions: Women with medical conditions that affect the shape and condition of the fallopian tubes, like endometriosis, are at increased risk.

10. History of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): This condition can cause scarring in the fallopian tubes, which increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Remember, just because a woman has one or more risk factors, does not mean she will necessarily have an ectopic pregnancy. However, knowing these risk factors can help in early diagnosis if pregnancy does occur.

Signs and Symptoms of Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes. The signs and symptoms can be similar to those of a normal pregnancy in the early stages, but as the pregnancy develops, more distinct symptoms can appear. These include:

1. Severe abdominal pain: This is often on one side of the lower abdomen. The pain can be sharp, stabbing and persistent, and can become intense with physical activity or movement.

2. Vaginal bleeding: This might be lighter or heavier than a normal period. The blood may appear darker and may be associated with the passing of clots.

3. Rectal pressure or discomfort: Some women experience pain during bowel movements.

4. Shoulder tip pain: Pain in the tip of the shoulder may develop if the ectopic pregnancy causes bleeding into the abdominal cavity.

5. Feeling faint or dizzy: This can be a result of internal bleeding causing low blood pressure.

6. Signs of shock: In severe cases, a person with an ectopic pregnancy can go into shock, which can lead to feeling dizzy or faint, having a racing heart, and experiencing clammy skin.

If you experience any of these symptoms, particularly severe abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding, you should seek medical advice immediately. An ectopic pregnancy can become a medical emergency. It’s worth noting that mild cramping and spotting are common in early pregnancy and don’t necessarily mean an ectopic pregnancy is occurring.

Diagnosis Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is a condition that happens when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside of the main cavity of the uterus. Pregnancy begins with a fertilized egg and normally, the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus, but in ectopic pregnancy it does not.

An ectopic pregnancy most often occurs in a fallopian tube, which carries eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. This type of ectopic pregnancy is known as tubal pregnancy. In some cases, however, ectopic pregnancy occurs in the abdominal cavity, ovary, or neck of the uterus (cervix).

Ectopic pregnancy can be a serious, life-threatening situation due to the risk of rupturing and causing internal bleeding. Signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may include abdominal pain, lack of menstrual period (amenorrhea), vaginal bleeding, fainting, dizziness and low blood pressure.

This condition requires immediate medical attention as it is a medical emergency. It’s usually diagnosed through a series of blood hormone tests and ultrasound and once diagnosed, medication or surgery is performed to remove the ectopic tissue.

Treatment of Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is a condition where the fertilized egg attaches itself somewhere outside the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube), which can lead to potentially fatal consequences for the mother. Therefore, immediate treatment is required. The treatment options for ectopic pregnancy can depend on several factors, and it includes medication, surgery, and monitoring:

1. Methotrexate: This is a common medication used to treat ectopic pregnancy. It is a chemotherapy drug that dissolves the developing embryo. The drug is usually injected into the muscle, after which the patient will be monitored to see if the drug is effectively dissolving the pregnancy tissue. This treatment is typically chosen if the ectopic pregnancy is caught early and there are no concerning symptoms like heavy bleeding or high hCG levels.

2. Surgery: Surgery is the preferred option if the ectopic pregnancy is at a later stage or if there is a risk of the fallopian tube rupturing due to the growing embryo. Laparoscopy, a form of minimally invasive surgery, is the usual surgical procedure. The surgeon removes the ectopic pregnancy and repairs or removes the affected fallopian tube.

3. Monitoring: If the ectopic pregnancy is discovered very early, and hCG (the pregnancy hormone) levels are low and decreasing, the doctor may just monitor the patient. The body might be able to absorb the pregnancy on its own without any need for treatment.

After either medical or surgical treatment, hCG levels in the woman will be periodically checked to ensure that the treatment has been successful. It’s also important to note that an ectopic pregnancy can affect future fertility, and those who have had one ectopic pregnancy are at a higher risk of having another. Hence, regular follow-ups with the healthcare provider are essential.

Medications commonly used for Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy, also known as tubal pregnancy, is a potentially dangerous condition where an embryo improperly implants outside the uterus, typically in one of the fallopian tubes. Two main treatments for ectopic pregnancy include surgery and medication.

The most common medication used for ectopic pregnancies is Methotrexate. This drug is employed as a first-line conservative treatment to prevent the embryo from growing further and to cause it to be absorbed back into the woman’s body.

Methotrexate is a chemotherapy medication and an immunosuppressant. It works by inhibiting the growth of rapidly dividing cells. In an ectopic pregnancy, methotrexate is used to hinder cell division in the developing embryo, causing it to stop growing.

This medicine is generally used when the ectopic pregnancy is detected early to avoid surgical intervention. However, methotrexate is not useful if the ectopic pregnancy has progressed too far or if it has already ruptured, as it can lead to severe internal bleeding.

Once the medication is administered, the doctor will monitor the patient’s hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels to ensure they are falling at an appropriate rate, indicating that the ectopic pregnancy tissue is dissolving.

It’s important to note that while methotrexate can be an effective non-surgical treatment for ectopic pregnancy, it carries the risk of side effects like nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and is generally avoided in women with liver or kidney disease, blood disorders, or immunodeficiency. Therefore, doctors carefully consider eligibility before prescribing this medication.

Prevention of Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, often in the fallopian tube, is a serious condition and can be life-threatening for the mother. Preventing an ectopic pregnancy is more about reducing risk factors than explicit methods of prevention. Here are a few ways to reduce the risk:

1. Limit the number of sexual partners: This reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like chlamydia or gonorrhea, which can cause inflammation and scarring in the fallopian tubes.

2. Use barrier contraceptives: Using condoms not only helps in birth control but also decreases the risk of STIs, again reducing the chance of tubal damage.

3. Regular Screening: If you’re sexually active with multiple partners, regular STI screenings can catch and treat these infections before they cause tubal damage.

Ectopic pregnancy

4. Quit smoking: Cigarette smoking just before you get pregnant can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. The more you smoke, the greater the risk.

5. Prompt treatment for pelvic infections: An untreated pelvic infection can increase the chances of an ectopic pregnancy.

6. Consider other methods of contraception. Some studies suggest an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy for women who use intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the contraceptive drug progesterone.

If you’ve had a previous ectopic pregnancy or another tubal surgery, have known tubal abnormalities, or have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease, you’re at high risk for an ectopic pregnancy. In such cases, it’s important to take necessary precautions and consult with a healthcare provider for advice regarding pregnancy planning.

It’s important to note that these are ways to reduce risk, not guaranteed prevention methods. An ectopic pregnancy can still occur even if none of the risk factors are present. Regular prenatal care can help detect an ectopic pregnancy early. If you suspect you may be at risk, discuss it with your healthcare provider.

FAQ’s about Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is a serious condition where a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus. Here are some frequently asked questions about ectopic pregnancy.

Q1: What are the causes of ectopic pregnancy?
The exact causes of ectopic pregnancies aren’t completely understood, but they often occur due to damaged or blocked fallopian tubes, infertility treatments, hormonal imbalances, or genetic abnormalities.

Q2: What are the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy?
Symptoms may include pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding, and gastrointestinal symptoms. More severe cases may present with pain in the shoulder, faintness, or an urge to have a bowel movement.

Q3: How is an ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
It can usually be diagnosed using transvaginal ultrasound scans, blood tests to check human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels, and sometimes laparoscopy for direct visualization of the pelvic and abdominal organs.

Q4: How is ectopic pregnancy treated?
Treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is essential, as without treatment it’s life-threatening. Options include medication (methotrexate), surgery, or observation, depending on the specifics of the case.

Q5: What is the impact of an ectopic pregnancy on future fertility?
Having one ectopic pregnancy increases the risk of having another. However, many women who have had an ectopic pregnancy can still conceive and have a successful pregnancy in the future with the right treatment and care.

Q6: Can ectopic pregnancy be prevented?
Not all ectopic pregnancies can be prevented, but some risk factors can be mitigated. This includes reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which can damage the fallopian tubes, and avoiding smoking, which can affect fertility.

If you believe you are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.

useful links

Ectopic pregnancy is a complication of pregnancy in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus. It is a potentially life-threatening form of pregnancy as it can cause internal bleeding, infertility, and maternal death.

Here’s a compilation of useful articles and journals about ectopic pregnancy:


Remember to access any of these links, you might need proper credentials and some may have paywalls asking for payment to access the full journal article.

Complications of Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy, also known as tubal pregnancy, occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes. This condition poses several complications, including:

1. Abdominal/Pelvic Pain: This is often the primary complaint in women experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. The pain might be sharp, consistent, or come in waves.

2. Internal bleeding: As the embryo grows, it can cause the organ where it’s implanted to rupture, leading to severe blood loss that can be life-threatening.

3. Shock: Heavy bleeding can lead to low blood pressure and shock, a critical condition.

4. Infertility: There is often damage to the fallopian tube where the ectopic pregnancy occurred, which can increase the risk of future ectopic pregnancies and make it more difficult to conceive.

5. Emotional Stress: The loss of pregnancy can be devastating and lead to significant emotional distress.

6. Rhogam Therapy: If you suffer an ectopic pregnancy and you have negative blood type, you’ll need to have a Rhogam shot to prevent issues with antibodies in future pregnancies.

7. Future Ectopic Pregnancy: Having one ectopic pregnancy puts you at greater risk of having another.

Ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency and needs immediate attention. Left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems.

Home remedies of Ectopic pregnancy

This is a serious health condition that requires medical attention – it cannot be treated with home remedies.

An ectopic pregnancy refers to a condition where a fertilised egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. It’s important to note that this is a life-threatening condition. If not treated timely, it can cause severe pain and internal bleeding.

Symptoms may include sharp waves of pain in the abdomen, pelvis, shoulders, or neck, abnormal vaginal bleeding, fainting or shock.

If you, or anyone, suspect an ectopic pregnancy, contact a healthcare provider immediately. Only medical professionals can diagnose and treat ectopic pregnancies using medications or through surgical means.

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Women's Health,

Last Update: January 4, 2024