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What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg is located outside the lining of the uterus. During ovulation, an egg is released, it mates with a sperm and becomes an embryo. The embryo must travel through the fallopian tube into the uterus.

In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg does not attach to the uterus. Instead, it may be found around the ovary, abdominal cavity, the lower part of the cervix or in the fallopian tube.

The symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Weakness and dizziness

  • Absence of menstrual period

  • Shoulder tip pain

  • Signs of pregnancy

You should contact your doctor or seek immediate treatment if you know that you’re pregnant and have any of these symptoms.

What causes an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy does not have a definite cause but there are some risk factors that predispose a woman to have it which include:

  • Smoking

  • History of ectopic pregnancy

  • Maternal age of 35 years or older

  • Previous fallopian tube surgery

  • Conception aided by fertility drugs or procedures

  • History of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea

  • Structural abnormalities in the fallopian tubes

Ectopic pregnancy is commonly diagnosed by blood test and/or pelvic/vaginal ultrasound scan.


It is not possible to prevent an ectopic pregnancy. To reduce the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, you should:

  • Have one active sexual partner. This reduces the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

  • Use condoms if you are not trying to conceive

  • Quit smoking

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle


Depending on the symptoms of the ectopic pregnancy, it can be managed/treated by:

  • Expectant management

  • Medication

  • Surgery

If you notice any of the above symptoms during pregnancy, speak with your care provider immediately.


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