Ectopic Pregnancy

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Ectopic: pregnancy implanted outside the uterine cavity. Subtypes include:

  • Tubal: pregnancy implanted in any portion of the fallopian tube
  • Abdominal: pregnancy implanted intra-abdominally, most commonly after tubal abortion or rupture of tubal ectopic pregnancy
  • Heterotopic: pregnancy implanted intrauterine and a separate pregnancy implanted outside uterine cavity
  • Ovarian: implantation of pregnancy in ovarian tissue
  • Cervical: implantation of pregnancy in cervix
  • Intraligamentary: implantation of pregnancy within the broad ligament


  • The true incidence is difficult to estimate. Incidence is likely between about 6 and 20 per 1,000 pregnancies in the United States. About 1 in 10 1st trimester pregnancies presenting to the emergency with pain and/or bleeding are due to ectopic pregnancy.
  • In the United States, ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of 1st trimester maternal deaths.
  • Heterotopic pregnancy, although rare (1:30,000), occurs with greater frequency in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) (1/1,000).
  • Increasing incidence of nontubal, and particularly cesarean scar ectopic pregnancies, due in part to more cesarean sections and more IVF

~33% recurrence rate if prior ectopic pregnancy

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • 95–97% of ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube, of which, 55–80% in the ampulla, 12–25% in the isthmus, and 5–17% in the fimbria.
  • One risk factor for a tubal pregnancy is impaired movement of the fertilized ovum to the uterine cavity due to dysfunction of the tubal cilia, scarring, or narrowing of the tubal lumen.
  • Other locations are rare but may occur from reimplantation of an aborted tubal pregnancy or from uterine structural abnormalities (mainly cervical pregnancy).

Risk Factors

  • History of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), endometritis, or current gonorrhea/chlamydia infection
  • Previous ectopic pregnancy
  • History of tubal surgery (~33% of pregnancies after tubal ligation will be ectopic)
  • Pelvic adhesive disease (infection or prior surgery)
  • Use of an intrauterine device (IUD): IUD reduces absolute risk of ectopic pregnancy, but there is an increased likelihood of ectopic location if pregnancy occurs.
  • Use of assisted reproductive technologies
  • Maternal diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure in utero (DES was last used in 1972)
  • Tobacco use
  • Patients with disorders that affect ciliary motility may be at increased risk (e.g., endometriosis, Kartagener).

General Prevention

  • Reliable contraception or abstinence
  • Screening for and treatment of STIs (i.e., gonorrhea, chlamydia) that can cause PID and tubal scarring

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