An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy growing in an area outside of the uterine cavity. Most commonly it occurs in one of your fallopian tubes and is therefore often called a “tubal pregnancy.” These pregnancies will almost never grow past the first trimester. If left untreated, they will most likely cause serious internal bleeding that can be life-threatening.
Normally, the egg and the sperm meet in the fallopian tube to form the embryo. This early embryo will usually migrate down the fallopian tube to the uterine cavity, where it implants and continues to grow. However, if you have scar tissue in your fallopian tube due to a previous infection or endometriosis, the embryo can get stuck as it moves down the tube. It will then implant into the wall of the tube and start growing there.
The fallopian tube has a very thin wall. As the pregnancy grows, it will stretch the tubal wall, often causing some pain to the woman. Vaginal bleeding is often noted at this time as well.
If the process continues, the fallopian tube wall, not meant to be stretched, can burst. This will cause significant bleeding inside the abdominal cavity. Called a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, this can be life threatening.
If your health care provider diagnoses an ectopic pregnancy, you will be offered either medication or surgery to treat it. If surgery is done, often your entire fallopian tube will have to be removed on the affected side.
Medical treatment involves receiving an intramuscular injection of Methotrexate, a drug that will stop the growth of the pregnancy tissue. This treatment is often successful if the tubal pregnancy is detected early.