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What is an ectopic pregnancy?

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Question: What is an ectopic pregnancy?

Answer: An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg develops into a fetus outside the womb. As this happens most commonly in the fallopian tube (which connects the ovary to the uterus), it is often called a tubal pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies are not viable and can lead to rupturing of the tube, internal bleeding, and shock. Surgery is necessary to remove the developing cells and - in the case of a rupture - to repair damaged tissue. If not diagnosed and treated, an ectopic pregnancy can endanger the mother's life.

Why would a fertilized egg develop in the fallopian tube? This can happen if the egg is slowed in its movement through the tube or is somehow blocked. Scarring of the fallopian tube is a primary cause.

About half of those who have ectopic pregnancies previously have had swelling/inflamation of the fallopian tubes or pelvic inflammatory disease.

More in-depth information on ectopic pregnancies:
Ectopic Pregnancy: Health Topics A-Z
Ectopic Pregnancy: Pregnancy & Childbirth

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