ZocdocAnswersWhat is an ectopic pregnancy?

Question

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

I've heard of them, but I've no idea what they are or if I'm at risk. I'm 27.

Answer

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. In a normal pregnancy, the sperm and egg join together to form an embryo, which implants into the wall of the uterus, where there is room to develop over the next 9 months. Rarely, the eggs that travel from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes will not make it to the uterus after they are fertilized by a sperm cell; instead they will implant in the fallopian tube (or less commonly, on the ovary or in the abdominal cavity). The danger of this scenario is that these are not the natural places for a pregnancy to develop, limited by space and surrounded by an environment that cannot support an enlarging embryo. In some cases, the ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed early (usually diagnosed by a combination of ultrasound imaging and blood work) and medical treatment may be successful in terminating the pregnancy. If not, then surgical intervention is necessary to remove the ectopic pregnancy. If the problem is not diagnosed in the early stages, then it may become a surgical emergency requiring urgent operation. If you are concerned about an ectopic pregnancy, then you should call your doctor immediately for further information.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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