Ectopic means "out of place." In an ectopic pregnancy, a fertilized egg has implanted outside the uterus. The egg settles in the fallopian tubes in more than 95% of ectopic pregnancies. This is why ectopic pregnancies are commonly called "tubal pregnancies." The egg can also implant in the ovary, abdomen, or the cervix, so you may see these referred to as cervical or abdominal pregnancies.

An ectopic pregnancy is a complication of pregnancy in which the fertilized ovum is implanted in any tissue other than the uterine wall. Most ectopic pregnancies occur in the Fallopian tube (so-called tubal pregnancies), but implantation can also occur in the cervix, ovaries, and abdomen. The fetus produces enzymes that allow it to implant in varied types of tissues, and thus an embryo implanted elsewhere than the uterus can cause great tissue damage in its efforts to reach a sufficient supply of blood.

The most serious complication of an ectopic pregnancy is intra-abdominal hemorrhage (severe bleeding). In the case of a tubal pregnancy, for example, as the products of conception continue to grow in the fallopian tube, the tube expands and eventually ruptures. This can be very dangerous because a large artery runs on the outside of each fallopian tube. If the artery ruptures, you can bleed severely.

Prevention for Ectopic Pregnancy

You can't prevent an ectopic pregnancy, but you can decrease certain risk factors. For example, limit your number of sexual partners and use a condom when you have sex to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and reduce the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.

Avoid gonorrhea, chlamydia, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by using a diaphragm or cervical cap or insisting that your sexual partner wear a condom (rubber).

Surgery of the reproductive system, bowels, or lower abdomen can lead to scarring, which increases your risk of ectopic pregnancy.

PID can damage your fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy. One of the main causes of PID is sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea. The male condom is the most effective method of preventing STIs.

Using safe sex practices, such as using a condom every time you have sex, lowers your risk of ectopic pregnancy. This is because safe sex helps protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a common cause of scar tissue in the fallopian tubes, which can cause ectopic pregnancy.

If you are at risk for having an ectopic pregnancy and you think you may be pregnant, use a home pregnancy test. If it is positive, be sure to have a confirmation test done by a health professional, especially if you are concerned about developing an ectopic pregnancy.

You will likely need surgery to remove the abnormal pregnancy. In the past, this was a major operation, requiring a large incision across the pelvic area. This might still be necessary in cases of emergency or extensive internal injury.

As long as you have one healthy fallopian tube, salpingostomy (small tubal slit) and salpingectomy (part of a tube removed) have about the same effect on your future fertility. But if your other tube is damaged, your doctor may try to do a salpingostomy. This may improve your chances of getting pregnant in the future.

Ectopic pregnancy does not occur in normal tubes, so prevention is based on avoiding the cause of damaged tubes. This includes avoiding promiscuity and activities that predispose to pelvic inflammatory disease and the early diagnosis and treatment of appendicitis.

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