What You Need to Know about Tubal Pregnancy

Learn the Definition of Tubal Pregnancies, Plus Your Future Pregnancy Outlook

There is a lot of misinformation and confusion out there about ectopic pregnancies, the most common of which are tubal pregnancies.

First, it's important to know that ectopic and tubal pregnancies cannot continue to term, meaning they always result in pregnancy loss. These pregnancies can cause life-threatening medical emergencies and sometimes require immediate surgery. In rare cases, a hysterectomy is necessary.

Although the diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy can be difficult to hear - especially if you were planning on having a child - you can still have a successful pregnancy in the future.

Also, it's heartening to know that ectopic and tubal pregnancies that are caught early can be fairly simple and much less drastic to treat. 

For that reason, it's good to be informed about signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy and what to expect after a diagnosis.

Ectopic and Tubal Pregnancies Defined

Doctor assisting patient with severe abdominal pain
Getty Images/PhotoAlto/Michele Constantini

Ectopic pregnancies are pregnancies that have implanted outside the uterus, usually in the pelvic or abdominal region. The most common type of ectopic pregnancy is tubal pregnancy, meaning the pregnancy is implanted in one of the two fallopian tubes. Much more rarely, ectopic pregnancies implant in the ovary, abdomen or cervix. 

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Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy

Blood pressure gauge
Blood pressure gauge. Getty Images/Andrew Brookes

In the early stages, an ectopic pregnancy may not have any symptoms outside of typical pregnancy symptoms. Brown spotting is possible in early pregnancy, although it does not mean that you have an ectopic pregnancy. You may also have pain in your lower abdomen that might be just be on one side. A ruptured tubal pregnancy may have more severe symptoms, such as fainting or feeling faint, intense pressure in the rectum, low blood pressure, pain in the shoulder area or severe, sharp and sudden pain in the lower abdomen.

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Ectopic Pregnancy Diagnosis

Pregnant couple having sonogram
Getty Images/John Fedele

Ectopic pregnancy diagnosis may include hCG blood tests, ultrasound, pelvic examination or a combination of the above. Surprisingly, it's not always easy to determine whether a pregnancy is in the fallopian tubes.

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Treatment Options

Some ectopic pregnancies will require surgery, while others will end on their own. Still others will be treated medically with a drug that inhibits growth of the pregnancy cells. If it's determined that you have an ectopic pregnancy, your doctor will determine a treatment for you based on your circumstances.

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Outlook for Future Pregnancies

There is an increased risk of having another ectopic pregnancy if you have had one in the past. But if you work with a doctor before conception, you can have a normal pregnancy in the future. One in three women who experience one ectopic pregnancy are still able to have a baby. 

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