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An OBGYN holds a patient's hand after telling her the new about her ectopic pregnancy.

Managing an Ectopic Pregnancy

Nov 20, 2020

When an OBGYN diagnoses a pregnancy complication like an ectopic pregnancy, it can be an incredibly stressful situation for an expectant mother. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg develops outside the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes. If an ectopic pregnancy is left untreated, it can critically impact the health of the mother and lead to fallopian tube damage, infertility, or death.

A diagram shows where an embryo is during a normal pregnancy versus where an embryo is during an ectopic pregnancy.

 

How Common Are Ectopic Pregnancies?

Jamie Hernandez, MD, an OBGYN at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group Caritas Women’s Care in Sugar Land, treats a range of gynecologic health concerns including ectopic pregnancies. Though up to 1 in 50 pregnancies are ectopic

“More than 50 percent of my patients do not have any risk factors for an ectopic pregnancy,” said Dr. Hernandez.  

The risk factors for an ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease

  • Previous ectopic pregnancy

  • Pelvic or abdominal surgery

  • Endometriosis

  • Prior tubal surgery

  • Assisted reproductive technology

  • Smoking

  • Increased age

Trying to Get Pregnant While at Risk for an Ectopic Pregnancy 

If you’re at risk and trying to get pregnant, charting your ovulation can be a helpful tool for your OBGYN to detect early signs of an ectopic pregnancy. Knowing the early signs of pregnancy and important prenatal screenings will help you and your doctor monitor your health.  

What Are the Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy?

Possible symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Shoulder pain

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Feeling dizzy or faint

If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical care right away.

Management Strategies for an Ectopic Pregnancy

OBGYNs can use expectant, medical, or surgical management for an ectopic pregnancy. The three surgical options include a salpingectomy (fallopian tube removal), salpingostomy (fallopian tube incision), or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).

Cases of ectopic pregnancy are evaluated on an individual basis. Talk with your OBGYN to figure out which treatment option is right for you. Schedule an appointment with Caritas Women’s Care, an OBGYN group that honors the sanctity of human life.

Sources:
Ectopic Pregnancy
Interventions for Tubal Ectopic Pregnancy
Pregnancy Complications