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Ectopic pregnancy is when a pregnancy grows outside of your uterus, usually in your fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies are rare but serious, and they need to be treated.

What’s an ectopic pregnancy?

Normal pregnancies develop inside your uterus, after a fertilized egg travels through your fallopian tube and attaches to your uterine lining. Ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg attaches somewhere else in your body, usually in your fallopian tube — that’s why it’s sometimes called “tubal pregnancy.”

Ectopic pregnancies can also happen on your ovary, or somewhere else in your belly.

Ectopic pregnancies are rare — it happens in about 2 out of every 100 pregnancies. But they’re very dangerous if not treated. Fallopian tubes can break if stretched too much by the growing pregnancy — this is sometimes called a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. This can cause internal bleeding, infection, and in some cases lead to death.

Am I at risk for an ectopic pregnancy?

We don’t always know the cause of ectopic pregnancy. But you may be more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy if you:

  • have had an STD, pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis

  • have already had an ectopic pregnancy

  • have had pelvic or abdominal surgery

  • are 35 or older

  • smoke cigarettes

If you get pregnant after you’ve been sterilized or while you have an IUD, it’s more likely to be ectopic. But this is very rare, because these types of birth control are super effective at preventing pregnancy.

Can I get pregnant again after an ectopic pregnancy?

Most people who have an ectopic pregnancy can have healthy pregnancies in the future, depending on the treatment you had and the condition of your fallopian tubes. If one of your fallopian tubes was removed or your tubes are scarred, it may be more difficult to get pregnant. If you have an ectopic pregnancy, you’re more likely to get another one in the future.

More questions from patients:

Can a doctor re-implant my ectopic pregnancy in my uterus? And is treating an ectopic pregnancy the same thing as having an abortion?

No, a doctor can’t re-implant or move your ectopic pregnancy into your uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can’t grow into fetuses: A pregnancy won’t survive if it’s ectopic, because a fertilized egg can’t grow or survive outside your uterus. 

Untreated ectopic pregnancies can cause internal bleeding, infection, and in some cases lead to death. When you have an ectopic pregnancy, it’s extremely important to get treatment from a doctor as soon as possible. 

Treating an ectopic pregnancy isn’t the same thing as getting an abortion. Abortion is a medical procedure that when done safely, ends a pregnancy that’s in your uterus. Ectopic pregnancies are unsafely outside of your uterus (usually in the fallopian tubes), and are removed with a medicine called methotrexate or through a laparoscopic surgical procedure. The medical procedures for abortions are not the same as the medical procedures for an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies are dangerous when left untreated and can’t lead to a baby. If you’re pregnant and have severe pain or bleeding, go to the emergency room right away. If you have any other symptoms of ectopic pregnancy, contact your doctor or nurse as soon as you can. The earlier an ectopic pregnancy is found and treated, the safer you’ll be.

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