Ectopic Pregnancy (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Ectopic pregnancy facts
- What is the definition of an ectopic pregnancy?
- What is an ectopic pregnancy?
- Three classic signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy
- What are other signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?
- What are the risk factors for ectopic pregnancy?
- How is ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
- What is the health risk of an ectopic pregnancy?
- What treatment options are available for ectopic pregnancy?
What are the risk factors for ectopic pregnancy?
There are multiple factors that increase a women's likelihood of having an ectopic pregnancy, but it is important to note that ectopic pregnancies can occur in women without any of these risk factors. Ectopic pregnancy can occur in any woman, of any age, who is ovulating and is sexually active with a male partner. The highest likelihood ectopic pregnancy occurs in women aged 35-44 years.
The greatest risk factor for an ectopic pregnancy is a prior history of an ectopic pregnancy.
Any disruption of the normal architecture of the Fallopian tubes can be a risk factor for a tubal pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy in other locations. Previous surgery on the Fallopian tubes such as tubal sterilization or reconstructive, procedures can lead to scarring and disruption of the normal anatomy of the tubes and increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Likewise, infection, congenital abnormalities, or tumors of the Fallopian tubes can increase a woman's risk of having an ectopic pregnancy.
Infection in the pelvis (pelvic inflammatory disease) is another risk factor for ectopic pregnancy. Pelvic infections are usually caused by sexually-transmitted organisms, such as Chlamydia or N. gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that cause gonorrhea. However, non-sexually transmitted bacteria can also cause pelvic infection and increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Infection causes an ectopic pregnancy by damaging or obstructing the Fallopian tubes. Normally, the inner lining of the Fallopian tubes is coated with small hair-like projections called cilia. These cilia are important to transport the egg smoothly from the ovary through the Fallopian tube and into the uterus. If these cilia are damaged by infection, egg transport becomes disrupted. The fertilized egg can settle in the Fallopian tube without reaching the uterus, thus becoming an ectopic pregnancy. Likewise, infection-related scarring and partial blockage of the Fallopian tubes can also prevent the egg from reaching the uterus.
Because having multiple sexual partners' increases a woman's risk of pelvic infections, multiple sexual partners also are associated with an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Like pelvic infections, conditions such as endometriosis, fibroid tumors, or pelvic scar tissue (pelvic adhesions), can narrow the Fallopian tubes and disrupt egg transportation, thereby increasing the chances of an ectopic pregnancy.
Approximately half of pregnancies in women using intrauterine devices (IUDs) will be located outside of the uterus. However, the total number of women becoming pregnant while using IUDs is extremely low. Therefore, the overall number of ectopic pregnancies related to IUDs is very low.
Cigarette smoking around the time of conception has also been associated with an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. This risk was observed to be dose-dependent, which means that the risk is dependent upon the individual woman's habits and increases with the number of cigarettes smoked.
A history of infertility for two or more years also is associated with an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Find out what women really need.