Ectopic (Tubal) Pregnancy: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis






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1. What Is A Tubal Pregnancy? 

A tubal pregnancy, also known as an ectopic pregnancy, is a very serious pregnancy complication. A tubal pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself to a place other than the uterus. The place where the majority of these eggs attach themselves is in the fallopian tubes.


This is why an ectopic pregnancy is sometimes known as a tubal pregnancy. Ectopic/tubal pregnancies are actually pretty common, occurring in about 1 in 50 pregnancies. The unfortunate thing about a tubal pregnancy is that the egg cannot grow and develop properly outside of the womb. Therefore, ectopic pregnancies are never viable.

2. Causes And Risk Factors For Tubal Pregnancy

There are several different things that can cause a tubal pregnancy. For example, infection or inflammation of the fallopian tube can cause it to become partially or totally blocked. Scar tissue from an operation or previous infection can also block the tube.

If the fallopian tube is misshapen due to a birth defect or abnormal growth, this can also cause a tubal pregnancy. Some women are also at a greater risk for having a tubal pregnancy.


The risk factors include having a previous pelvic or abdominal surgery, having a prior ectopic pregnancy, being between the ages of 35-44, having Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, having endometriosis, having prior induced abortions, going through fertility treatments or taking fertility medications, and being a smoker.

3. How Do You Know If You Have An Ectopic Pregnancy?

Most women who experience an ectopic pregnancy will go through all of the normal pregnancy signs and symptoms at first. However, at some point, they will experience a sharp or stabbing pain that may come and go and vary in intensity.


The pain may be in the pelvis, abdomen or even the shoulder and neck (due to blood from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy gathering up under the diaphragm). Also, vaginal bleeding will be present, although it can be either lighter or heavier than a normal period. Weakness, dizziness, or even fainting my also occur, and will usually be accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek emergency medical care. After an ultrasound is done, a doctor will be able to determine if it is in fact an ectopic pregnancy.

 4. What Happens If You Have An Ectopic Pregnancy?

Once your doctor determines that it is in fact an ectopic pregnancy, you will have to figure out what to do next. If your doctor thinks that your fallopian tube has ruptured, you will have to have emergency surgery.


If the fallopian tube is not damaged, you may be able to have laparoscopic surgery using a long thin needle to remove the embryo and repair the damage. Sometimes, if the pregnancy has not progressed very far, you will be able to take a medication that will stop the growth of the pregnancy tissue.


In this case, surgery is not required. Your doctor will be able to give you more information about these options if needed. Please keep in mind that the majority of women who face ectopic pregnancies go on to have healthy successful pregnancies later on.

Dr. Lynette Weiss is ConceiveEasy's Senior Physician and Scientific Director. She is certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.