What Is An Ectopic Pregnancy?

resting woman with her arm over her eyes

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterine cavity. The most frequent location of an ectopic pregnancy is in the fallopian tube, which accounts for 96% of all ectopic pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancy accounts for approximately 2% of all reported pregnancies, although the true incidence is not well established.

Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy

The symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may initially feel like symptoms of a normal pregnancy but can quickly change.

Symptoms include:

  • vaginal bleeding
  • sharp or stabbing abdominal pain
  • pain on one side of the body that may spread through your belly
  • dizziness, weakness, or fainting

If you have these symptoms of ectopic pregnancy, see a doctor immediately.

The major health risk of ectopic pregnancy is that the tube will rupture and lead to internal bleeding. You may need emergency surgery to reduce the risk of heavy bleeding (hemorrhaging) if the tube ruptures. Ectopic pregnancy is a leading cause of pregnancy-related death; however, survival rates have drastically improved due to advances in early detection.

An ectopic pregnancy cannot be saved. If the tube has not burst and the pregnancy hasn’t progressed very far, you may be able to take Methotrexate, an injectable medication, to stop the growth of the pregnancy. This may help save your fallopian tube. If your tube is stretched, bleeding, or ruptured you will likely require emergency laparoscopic surgery to remove the ectopic pregnancy and the damaged tube.

Pregnancy after Ectopic Pregnancy

You can have a normal pregnancy after an ectopic pregnancy. Even if one fallopian tube was removed, the remaining one should be enough to let you get pregnant again. Your doctor may suggest you wait three to six months before trying to conceive.

If you have problems with your fallopian tubes, it is still possible to become pregnant. Surgery can help by removing a blockage, reconstructing the damaged end of a tube, or removing scar tissue. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is another way of trying to become pregnant. This advanced reproductive technology doesn’t repair the tubes but bypasses them by transferring the embryo directly into the uterus.

Dr. Taraneh Gharib Nazem is Senior Fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai/Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York. She is a board-certified Obstetrician Gynecologist. Dr. Nazem completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the New York University School of Medicine, where she was elected administrative chief resident and graduated with the Robert F. Porges Honor Resident Award, for outstanding performance.