Ectopic Pregnancy

Facts about ectopic pregnancies

An ectopic pregnancy is a rare condition in which the fetus is outside the womb. In the majority of cases, ectopic pregnancies are not viable and the fetus is never born. The majority of ectopic pregnancies occur with the placement of the fetus within the fallopian tubes; this condition is known as tubal pregnancy. However, it can also occur in the stomach or, rarely, in the cervix. It is very important that expectant mothers learn to recognize the signs of ectopic pregnancy, since prompt medical interventions will be necessary to minimize the risk of permanent harm to the reproductive system and internal bleeding which can lead to serious health complications.


Causes of Ectopic Pregnancies

The most common cause of ectopic pregnancy is the presence of an underlying condition which inhibits the movement of the egg from the ovaries to the uterus. Hormonal imbalance and tobacco use heighten this risk, but physical blockages may also be present for other reasons. Ectopic pregnancy after tubal ligation occurs more frequently as well, since the presence of scars can inhibit the egg's natural path of motion.

Women over the age of 35, women who have had many different sexual partners, and women who undergo in vitro fertilization are all considered to be at heightened risk for ectopic pregnancies.

Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms

Some of the warning signs of ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Abnormal bleeding in the vagina
  • Severe, persistent low back pain
  • Swollen and tender breasts
  • Nausea
  • Recurrent pain in the abdomen or pelvis
  • Cramps localized to one side of the pelvis

If you exhibit one or more of these symptoms, it is important that you tell your doctor right away. Taking early action to terminate an ectopic pregnancy minimizes your risk of suffering subsequent complications and possible fertility loss.

The prognosis for future pregnancy after an ectopic pregnancy varies and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Statistics show that about one-third of women who have an ectopic pregnancy go on to have normal pregnancies later on; approximately the same proportion have subsequent ectopic pregnancies. Unfortunately, many women who have an ectopic pregnancy never become pregnant again, with a complete loss of fertility occurring in about 10 to 15 percent of cases.