Skip to main content

Ectopic Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg attaches and begins to grow outside of the uterus. The most common place for this to happen is in the fallopian tube. This is sometimes called a tubal pregnancy. The egg can also implant on the outside of the uterus, on the ovary or cervix, or in the abdomen. The egg may begin to grow, but the pregnancy cannot continue normally. Ectopic pregnancy can cause heavy bleeding and may be life-threatening.

What increases my risk for an ectopic pregnancy?

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or infections, such as chlamydia
  • A past ectopic pregnancy, or past fertility problems
  • Fallopian tube injury or damage
  • Getting pregnant when you have an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Past surgery in your abdomen or on your reproductive organs
  • Medicines to treat infertility or that contain female hormones
  • Certain fertility treatments, such as multiple embryo transplant
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Age older than 35 years

What are the signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy?

  • One-sided abdominal or pelvic pain and cramping
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting that happens about 7 weeks after your missed period
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting
  • Tissue coming out of your vagina

How is ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about other medical conditions or surgeries you have had. The provider will ask about pregnancies, miscarriages, infertility treatments, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) you have had before. You may need any of the following:

  • A pelvic exam is used to check the size and shape of your uterus, cervix, and ovaries.
  • Blood and urine tests will show if you are currently pregnant, or if you have infections or other problems.
  • Ultrasound pictures may be taken of the inside of your uterus, ovaries, and abdomen. An ultrasound is usually done over your abdomen, but you may also need a vaginal ultrasound. During a vaginal ultrasound, a small tube is placed into your vagina. This can help healthcare providers see areas that may be hard to see during an abdominal ultrasound.

How is ectopic pregnancy treated?

Your body may absorb the pregnancy tissues and your symptoms may decrease without any treatment. If this does not happen, you may need any of the following:

  • Medicine called methotrexate may be given to stop the pregnancy. This may be given as an injection. You may need more than one dose. It is important to follow up with your healthcare provider as directed if you receive this medicine.
  • Surgery may be done to repair or remove tissue or ruptured fallopian tubes. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about possible kinds of surgery. Your provider will consider where the ectopic pregnancy is located and the damage it caused. Talk to your provider about your desire to have children in the future. Some kinds of surgery will prevent future pregnancy.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

Where can I get support and more information?

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    P.O. Box 70620
    Washington , DC 20024-9998
    Phone: 1- 202 - 638-5577
    Phone: 1- 800 - 673-8444
    Web Address:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have sharp pain in your lower abdomen that is severe and starts suddenly.
  • You feel lightheaded or like you are going to faint.
  • You have increasing abdominal or pelvic pain or heavy vaginal bleeding.
  • You have shoulder pain.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Ectopic Pregnancy

Treatment options

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.