Ectopic Pregnancy Statistics

How Common Are Tubal Pregnancies, and What Do They Mean for Your Future?

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How common are ectopic pregnancies and what are the other statistics?. OJO Images/OJO Images/Getty Images

If you've heard about ectopic pregnancies, you're probably wondering about the statistics. How common are tubal pregnancies? What are the risk factors? What are your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy?

How Common are Ectopic Pregnancies?

According to the March of Dimes, about 1 in every 50 pregnancies in the U.S. is an ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy.) Your personal risk, however, may actually be lower or higher than the average.

Keep reading to learn why—what risk factors raise or lower the risk—as well as to learn what having an ectopic pregnancy may mean for you in the future.

What Is An Ectopic Pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancies are pregnancies that implant outside of the uterus. They're often called tubal pregnancies because they almost always occur in the fallopian tubes. In rare cases they may also implant in the abdomen.

Studies show that between 6 to 16 percent of pregnant women who go to an emergency department in the first trimester for bleeding, pain or both have an ectopic pregnancy.

How Dangerous are Ectopic Pregnancies?

Ectopic pregnancies can be dangerous to the mother. Bleeding from ectopic pregnancy causes 4 to 10 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths, and it's the leading cause of first-trimester maternal death.

Between 1980 and 2007, ectopic pregnancies caused 876 maternal deaths in the U.S.

Unfortunately, ectopic pregnancies are not viable and cannot result in a baby.

Unfortunately, we do not yet have the technology to move a fetus implanted in the fallopian tubes to the uterus.

How are Ectopic Pregnancies Treated?

There are three primary treatments for ectopic pregnancy.

One is used only rarely, and involves a wait and watch approach. It is only used if the baby appears to be miscarrying and hCG levels are dropping.

Treatments include either surgically removing the pregnancy or using the medication methotrexate to stop the pregnancy. If the pregnancy is found soon enough and there is little risk of rupture, and injection of methotrexate is most often used. It's thought that this approach may be used in up to 90 percent of ectopic pregnancies. If, however, there is a threat of rupture or any signs that rupture has occurred, surgical treatment is needed.

Understanding the Statistics

If you don't have risk factors, your odds of having an ectopic pregnancy may be actually lower than 1 in 50. There are several known and a few possible risk factors for ectopic pregnancy which may boost your risk higher than average. Some of these include:

  • Being older than 35
  • Smoking - The risk of ectopic pregnancy is 4 to 20 times higher in women who smoke
  • A previous ectopic pregnancy - If you have one ectopic pregnancy, the chance that your next pregnancy will be an ectopic pregnancy is 15 percent
  • Surgery on a fallopian tube or a birth defect in a fallopian tube or your uterus
  • Scars inside the pelvic area (these may occur from prior pelvic surgery or abdominal surgery such as an appendectomy)
  • Endometriosis
  • Sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea that can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Having multiple sexual partners (probably secondary to sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Problems getting pregnant or fertility treatments (women with a history of infertility have a greater risk)
  • Getting pregnant after having your tubes tied (tubal ligation) - Roughly a third of women who become pregnant after a tubal ligation will have an ectopic pregnancy
  • Getting pregnant when using an IUD (intrauterine device) - The risk of an ectopic pregnancy in women who have an IUD varies depending upon the type of IUD
  • Exposure to a manufactured form of the hormone estrogen called DES (diethylstilbestrol) in the womb (doctors stopped using DES in pregnant women in the early 1970's so most women today are not at risk)

After an Ectopic Pregnancy - What Happens Next Time?

Women who have an ectopic pregnancy are often curious about what a pregnancy will look like in the future. It's normal to worry about this.

You should know that you can have a normal pregnancy even after an ectopic pregnancy. A third of women with an ectopic pregnancy have a healthy pregnancy down the line.

However, you do have a 15 percent chance of another ectopic pregnancy after the first one. How your ectopic pregnancy was treated may play a role in this. Studies show that women treated with medication (methotrexate) rather than surgery have a lower risk of recurrent ectopic pregnancy (8 percent versus up to 15 percent). This is one reason to get suspicious symptoms such as bleeding checked out as early as possible—ectopic pregnancies caught early are more likely to be treated with methotrexate instead of surgery.

Summing Up Ectopic Pregnancy Statistics

Here are the statistics for ectopic pregnancies at a glance:

  • About 1 in every 50 pregnancies in the U.S. is an ectopic pregnancy, which cannot result in a baby.
  • Between 6 to 16 percent of pregnant women who go to an emergency department in the first trimester for bleeding, pain or both have an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Bleeding from ectopic pregnancy causes 4 to 10 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths, and it's the leading cause of first-trimester maternal death.
  • Between 1980 and 2007, ectopic pregnancies caused 876 maternal deaths in the U.S.
  • A third of women with an ectopic pregnancy have a healthy pregnancy down the line.
  • Women have a 15 percent chance of another ectopic pregnancy after the first one. Treatment with medication rather than surgery has a lower risk of recurrent ectopic pregnancy.

Sources:

Tulandi, T. Ectopic pregnancy: Incidence, risk factors, and pathology. UpToDate. Updated 04/13/16.

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