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What Is the Main Cause of Ectopic Pregnancy?

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

If you are pregnant, you might have heard of the importance of confirming your pregnancy's location to ensure the pregnancy is developing within the uterus. The leading cause of ectopic pregnancy is inflammation or scarring within the fallopian tubes.

What Is Ectopic Pregnancy?

In a typical pregnancy, an embryo travels to the uterus and implants in the wall. The uterus is designed to expand safely as the pregnancy develops.

An ectopic pregnancy is caused by the embryo implanting outside of the uterus. This most commonly occurs in one of the fallopian tubes leading from the ovaries to the uterus. The fallopian tubes cannot grow with the pregnancy, so an embryo implanted within the tube can cause complications, like a tube rupturing (bursting).

Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition that depends on early diagnosis and treatment to resolve.

Risk Factors for Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy can happen to anyone, but there are risk factors that increase the chances of developing one. Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include the following:

  • Previous ectopic pregnancy: a woman that has experienced a prior ectopic pregnancy is more likely to have another.

  • Inflammation or infection: The risk of ectopic pregnancy increases with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and other infections due to the inflammation it causes in the fallopian tubes.

  • Fertility treatments: In vitro fertilization may increase a woman’s chances for ectopic pregnancy.

  • Tubal surgery: Surgery to repair an impaired fallopian tube can lead to ectopic pregnancy.

  • Intrauterine device (IUD) or tubal ligation (having your tubes tied): While these birth control methods are meant to prevent pregnancy, they can fail. When this happens, and a woman becomes pregnant after a tubal ligation or implanting an IUD, she is more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy.

  • Smoking: The risk of ectopic pregnancy increases as the frequency a woman smokes increases.

Women with these risk factors will not necessarily develop an ectopic pregnancy, but their healthcare provider should more closely monitor them for ectopic pregnancy. Similarly, not having these risk factors does not mean that a woman will not experience an ectopic pregnancy; about 50% of women diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy do not have any risk factors.

Free Ultrasounds

Early diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy through ultrasound can decrease the risks of life-threatening complications. Contact us at one of our four convenient locations to schedule your free and confidential appointment, which includes a free ultrasound.



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