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Understanding Ectopic Pregnancy Causes And Treatments

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Every year, a significant number of pregnant women, or Assigned Females at Birth (AFABs), experience a complication called Ectopic pregnancy. 

It is a condition in which a fertilized egg gets implanted outside the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes. This misplaced implantation can lead to life-threatening situations like tubal rupture and internal bleeding. 

The Ectopic Pregnancy causes include Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, the use of IUDs, and a history of Ectopic pregnancy, among other factors. 

This article discusses the factors that can increase the risk of an Ectopic pregnancy, methods of diagnosis, and possible treatment options available.

Ectopic Pregnancy Causes

The most common location for an Ectopic pregnancy is within the fallopian tubes (tubal pregnancy). However, implantation can occur elsewhere. 

In a rare abdominal Ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants in the abdominal cavity. Even rarer locations include the ovary, cervix, or other areas, each with potentially unique symptoms and complications.

Some common Ectopic pregnancy symptoms are vaginal bleeding, shoulder pain, and dizziness.

While the exact cause of an Ectopic pregnancy can be difficult to pinpoint, certain factors significantly increase the risk. Let’s delve into these contributing factors:

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

It is a type of infection in the woman’s reproductive organs that can cause blockages in the fallopian tubes, hindering the fertilized egg’s journey to the uterus. Women with PID have a significantly higher risk of Ectopic pregnancy.

To learn more about PID and its symptoms, read Exploring Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Symptoms.

Previous Ectopic Pregnancy

Scar tissue left behind from a previous Ectopic pregnancy can obstruct the fallopian tubes, increasing the chances of future ectopic implantation.

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  • Previous Tubal Ligation or Surgery 

    Surgical procedures like tubal ligation (sterilization) or other abdominal surgeries can alter the structure and function of the fallopian tubes, raising the risk of Ectopic pregnancy.

    Use of Intrauterine Devices (IUD) 

    Although IUDs are effective in preventing pregnancy, Ectopic pregnancy can still occur. 

    In rare cases, an egg might become fertilized while an IUD is in place, and with the IUD partially blocking the fallopian tubes, the fertilized egg could implant outside the uterus. 

    However, it’s important to note that the risk of Ectopic pregnancy with IUDs is significantly lower compared to other factors.

    Other Contributing Factors

    Smoking, Endometriosis (a condition where tissue similar to the endometrium lining grows outside the uterus), and hormonal imbalances can also contribute to Ectopic pregnancy. These factors can affect Ovulation, fallopian tube health, and the movement of the fertilized egg, potentially leading to ectopic implantation.

    Did You Know?
    Ectopic pregnancy is known to be a common cause of death for pregnant women in the United States and around the world during the first trimester.

    Diagnosis of Ectopic Pregnancy

    picture of ultrasound deviceSource: getty_images

    Timely diagnosis of Ectopic pregnancy is crucial for successful treatment and minimizing potential complications. Here are the diagnostic methods commonly used:

    • Pregnancy test and hormone levels (hCG): A pregnancy test can confirm pregnancy, and measuring the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone levels can provide additional information. While hCG levels rise in both normal and ectopic pregnancies, the pattern of rise can sometimes be indicative of an ectopic situation.
    • Ultrasound examination (transvaginal or abdominal): An ultrasound can help visualize the location of a pregnancy. It offers a clearer picture of the pelvic organs and can sometimes detect an ectopic pregnancy.
    • Laparoscopy (in some cases): If an ultrasound is inconclusive or symptoms are severe, a laparoscopy might be necessary. This minimally invasive surgical procedure involves a thin viewing instrument inserted in the abdomen to directly view the pelvic organs and diagnose the presence of ectopic tissue.
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    Treatment Options for Ectopic Pregnancy

    Prompt treatment is essential for Ectopic pregnancy due to the risk of complications. Depending on the specific situation and severity, Ectopic pregnancy treatment options include

    Laparoscopic surgery: This minimally invasive surgery is the preferred option for most Ectopic pregnancies. During laparoscopy, the surgeon can locate the ectopic tissue and remove it with minimal disruption to the surrounding organs.

    Laparotomy (abdominal surgery) in rare cases: In some situations, particularly when there’s significant internal bleeding or the Ectopic pregnancy is located in the abdomen, an open abdominal surgery (laparotomy) might be necessary.

    Your doctor will provide specific guidance regarding pain management, medication, and future fertility options.

    Ectopic pregnancy can progress rapidly, so delaying medical attention can be dangerous. If you experience any concerning symptoms, seek immediate medical help from a doctor or emergency room.


    Ectopic pregnancy can be a frightening and life-threatening experience if left undiagnosed.

    Some of the causes of Ectopic pregnancy are PID, use of IUDs, some previous surgical procedures, and a history of Ectopic pregnancy.

    It can be diagnosed using techniques like ultrasound, pregnancy tests, or laparoscopy.

    Laparoscopic surgery and Laparotomy surgery are the options available for removing the ectopic tissue.

    Early diagnosis and timely treatment are crucial for the successful management of Ectopic pregnancy and minimizing potential complications. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can abortion cause Ectopic pregnancy?

    No, abortion cannot cause an Ectopic pregnancy. These are two different conditions. Ectopic pregnancy is a situation in which an egg, after fertilization gets implanted outside the uterus, while abortion is the termination of a pregnancy within the uterus.

    Can an Ectopic pregnancy cause back or shoulder pain?

    Yes, Ectopic pregnancy can cause back pain. This is called referred pain, where pain from the irritated tissues in your pelvis travels to your lower back or shoulder area. It’s not a typical symptom, but it’s possible.

    Can PCOS cause Ectopic pregnancy?

    Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can increase your risk of Ectopic pregnancy. It can affect Ovulation and potentially alter fallopian tube function, making implantation outside the uterus more likely.

    Do Ectopic pregnancies cause bleeding?

    Ectopic pregnancies can cause vaginal bleeding, but it may be irregular or scant. It’s not a guaranteed symptom, but if you’re pregnant and experiencing bleeding, see a doctor right away to rule out the possibility.

    Can IVF cause Ectopic pregnancy?

    IVF doesn’t directly cause Ectopic pregnancy. However, fertility issues leading to IVF can also increase the risk. These issues may involve fallopian tube problems that could increase the chance of an Ectopic pregnancy, even with IVF.

    Can an Ectopic pregnancy cause infertility?

    Yes, Ectopic pregnancy can increase the risk of future infertility. Damage to fallopian tubes during the pregnancy or surgery to treat it can block or scar the tubes, making it harder to get pregnant later.

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    Photo of author Janet Fudge
    Janet Fudge is a highly skilled and experienced pharmacologist who serves as a contributing writer for With a strong academic background from a premier US University and a passion for helping others, Janet has become a trusted voice in the pharmaceutical world. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Janet embarked on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, working with various clients, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and drug manufacturers. Her in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and dedication to patient-centered care has led her to excel in her field. As a writer for, Janet uses her wealth of expertise to provide readers with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on various topics related to medicine and healthcare. Her engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics into easily digestible content make her a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and the general public.
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