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What is an ectopic pregnancy and how is it treated?

Q-and-A with Dana Baras, M.D.,M.P.H., Signature OB/GYN

Jackie Notes, CNM

An ectopic pregnancy means that an embryo has implanted in a woman’s body, outside of her uterus. While the fallopian tubes are the most common location for this to occur, it is also possible for implantation to occur in the abdomen, cervix, ovary or even in the cornua of the uterus (corner or horn). Approximately 50 percent of the women who experience an ectopic pregnancy have no predetermined risk factors; it simply happens with no reasonable explanation. There are a few factors that can increase the likeliness that an ectopic pregnancy may occur, however. Women who undergo fertility treatments in order to get pregnant, as well as those who have undergone previous tubal surgeries or who have pelvic inflammatory disease, are at higher risk. 

Approximately 1 percent of all pregnancies are ectopic. Early signs that may suggest a woman may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy are abdominal pain, cramping and spotting early in pregnancy (typically around the five- to six-week mark). When these conditions are present, we conduct an ultrasound and/or monitor hormone levels through regular blood draws. If and when an ectopic pregnancy is confirmed, we can sometimes treat the woman through medication, but surgical treatment is often required.  Left untreated, it can be a life-threatening emergency if the pregnancy ruptures.

Having an ectopic pregnancy does not mean that a woman cannot get pregnant again and eventually deliver a healthy, full-term baby. It is important to note, though, that the chance of having additional ectopic pregnancies does rise after a woman experiences this. There is a 10 percent chance it will happen again after one ectopic experience and a 25 percent chance after two.

Signature OB/GYN specializes in providing comprehensive, patient-centered care for each woman who chooses our practice. We are committed to helping our patients experience healthy pregnancies that result in the birth of healthy babies. If you have concerns or questions about ectopic pregnancies, be sure to raise them at your next appointment