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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Ectopic Pregnancy
      Category : Health Centers > Pregnancy and Childbirth

Ectopic Pregnancy

Alternate Names : Pregnancy in the Fallopian Tube, Tubal Pregnancy, Extrauterine Pregnancy

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. The most common site is within a fallopian tube. More rarely an embryo may implant within an ovary, in the cervix, or on the abdominal wall.

What is going on in the body?

One out of every 200 pregnancies is ectopic. Although the fertilized egg is not cradled within the uterus, the embryo continues to grow and expand. Most ectopic pregnancies occur in a fallopian tube. Without treatment, the tube can rupture. That can cause many serious problems and sometimes death.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Usually, an ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg is slowed or blocked in some way as it travels down the tube to the uterus. The stage may be set for this by:

  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is widespread inflammation within the pelvis that is usually caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • misshapen tubes
  • endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other parts of the body
  • surgery on a tube, such as tubal ligation done to prevent pregnancy
  • adhesions from prior surgery, such as an appendectomy. Adhesions are fibrous bands in or between organs.
  • a history of infertility
  • an earlier ectopic pregnancy
  • an intrauterine device (IUD), which is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy
  • a pelvic mass that interferes with the normal function of the fallopian tubes. Examples are a fibroid, or noncancerous tumor of the uterus, and an ovarian cyst, which is a fluid-filled sac on the ovary.
  • use of fertility medications that stimulate the ovary
  • in vitro fertilization, in which the egg is artificially fertilized outside of the body
  • a pregnancy that occurs while taking the progestin-only Mini-Pill for birth control


    Next section


    Ectopic Pregnancy: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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