What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?


What Is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fetus is developing outside of the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening and require medical assistance.

If you think you may be pregnant or tested positive with an at-home pregnancy test, it is crucial to confirm your pregnancy with a medical-grade pregnancy test and an ultrasound to verify that the pregnancy is not ectopic.


Dangers of Ectopic Pregnancy

If left undiagnosed or untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can lead to life-threatening health complications. If an ectopic pregnancy continues to grow in the fallopian tube, it can cause the tube to rupture. 

Seek medical help if you are pregnant and experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe abdominal or pelvic pain accompanied by vaginal bleeding
  • Extreme lightheadedness or fainting
  • Shoulder pain


Are Ectopic Pregnancies Viable?

A pregnancy that develops outside of the uterus cannot get the sustained nourishment needed to develop and cannot survive. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “An ectopic pregnancy can’t proceed normally. The fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding if left untreated.”



Risk Factors for Ectopic Pregnancies

Certain circumstances that can make an ectopic pregnancy more likely are:

  • If you had a previous ectopic pregnancy
  • STIs can cause inflammation or infection in the tubes or other organs nearby which can increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy
  • Fertility treatments like IVF (in vitro fertilization) or other like treatments are more prone to have an ectopic pregnancy
  • Tubal surgery to treat a closed or damaged fallopian tube can also raise your chances of developing an ectopic pregnancy
  • Your choice of birth control can also increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Though rare, it is possible to get pregnant while using an IUD (intrauterine device) and such pregnancies are likely to be ectopic. Tying your tubes can also increase your risk. 
  • Smoking immediately before you get pregnant can raise your risk for ectopic pregnancy as well. Your risk continues to increase the more you smoke. 


Confirming your pregnancy with ultrasound and a medical-grade pregnancy test is vital to protect your health, especially to ensure that you don’t have an ectopic pregnancy. Ultrasounds not only help to identify the location of the pregnancy in the body, but also the presence of a heartbeat and gestational age, so that you can more fully understand all of your options.

Request a free appointment at Vida today. Unexpected pregnancy can be scary, but we’re here to walk with you on your journey.

You’re never alone.