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Ectopic Pregnancy

(Tubal Pregnancy)



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    TOP

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


Risk Factors    TOP

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    TOP

Ectopic pregnancy may cause:

  • Missed or abnormal menstrual period
  • Abdominal pain
  • Spotty vaginal bleeding
  • Pain in the shoulder
  • Fainting

Diagnosis    TOP

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be also be done.

Tests may include:

  • Pregnancy test
  • Pelvic exam
  • Blood tests
  • Transvaginal ultrasound to check the uterus and fallopian tubes for the presence or absence of a pregnancy

Treatment    TOP

Treatment options include:


If the ectopic pregnancy is small and has not ruptured (burst), your doctor will recommend the a medication that prevents further growth of the ectopic pregnancy.


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    TOP

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.

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists


The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

Women's Health Matters


Ectopic pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated April 23, 2012. Accessed August 13, 2012.

Ectopic pregnancy. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Updated February 2010. Accessed August 13, 2012.

Ectopic pregnancy. Planned Parenthood website. Available at:
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Accessed August 15, 2012.

4/22/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
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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.

Last reviewed May 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 6/17/2014

Copyright © 2015 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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