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What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

A normal pregnancy begins with a fertilized egg which then attaches to the lining of the uterus, but sometimes the fertilized egg gets stuck on the way to the uterus and begins to grow outside of the main cavity of the uterus causing an (EP) or tubal pregnancy.

An (EP) may also occur in other areas of the body: ovary, abdominal cavity, or the lower part of the uterus.

Although rare, an (EP) still occurs at a rate of 100,000 per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s important to know that an (EP) cannot proceed normally.

The fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding if left untreated according to a Mayo Clinic overview.

What are the symptoms of EP?

The Mayo Clinic notes that you may not notice any symptoms at first. Some women who have an (EP) have the usual signs or symptoms of pregnancy – a missed period, breast tenderness, and nausea. The results will be positive if you take a pregnancy test. Still, an (EP) can’t proceed as normal. When the fertilized egg grows in an improper place, the signs and symptoms will become more noticeable.

Are there warning signs and symptoms?

  • A first warning sign is light vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain.
  • If blood leaks from the fallopian tubes, you may feel shoulder pain or an urge to have a bowel movement.
  • Specific symptoms depend on where the blood collects and which nerves are irritated.
  • Sharp or stabbing pain that may come and go and vary in strength. The pain may also occur in the abdomen or neck.
  • Emergency Symptoms: If the fertilized egg continues to grow in the fallopian tube, it can cause the tube to rupture. Heavy bleeding inside the abdomen is likely. You may feel extreme lightheadedness, fainting, and shock. It’s important to contact your doctor immediately if you are experiencing sharp pain that lasts more than a few minutes or if you have bleeding.

What are the causes?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, causes may include:

  • An infection or inflammation of the fallopian tubes can cause it to become partially or entirely blocked.
  • Scar tissue from a previous infection or a surgical procedure on the tube may also hinder the egg’s movement.
  • Previous surgery in the pelvic area or on the tubes can cause adhesions.
  • Abnormal growths or a birth defect can result in an abnormality in the tube’s shape.

Are there risk factors?

  • Surgery to reverse a tubal ligation
  • IUD in place
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Maternal age of 35 – 44 years
  • Some infertility treatments
  • Previous pelvic or abdominal surgery
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Endometriosis
  • Inflammation or infection
  • Smoking

How is EP diagnosed?

A pelvic exam by your doctor can help identify areas of pain or tenderness or a mass in the fallopian tube or ovary. This will also include blood tests and an ultra-sound.

Remember to talk with your doctor about any signs or symptoms you may be experiencing to ensure that you are not having an Ectopic Pregnancy.


The information on this site is intended to raise awareness, and understanding of specific health issues. It should not be used for diagnosis or a substitute for health care by your physician.


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