Ectopic pregnancy

Synonyms: Tubal pregnancy

Medical Specialties: Obstetrics/gynecology, Surgery

Clinical Definition

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a human embryo implants outside the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. Implantation outside the uterus puts the mother at greater risk, and the embryo has almost no chance of developing into a baby.

In Our Own Words

When a human embryo implants in a fallopian tube or outside the uterus, it is known as an ectopic pregnancy. Because the environment outside the uterus is not equipped to support gestation, ectopic pregnancy is a grave situation for both the mother and the developing embryo or fetus. Even though the embryo can get bigger, it does not have a secure blood supply or the structure of the womb in which to develop.


Most of the time, this type of implantation occurs in the fallopian tube. The affected fallopian tube may burst and cause potentially fatal internal bleeding. More rarely, the embryo may implant in an ovary, and the embryo may develop further, with the placenta attaching to the intestines or bladder.


Women with abnormal fallopian tubes, who may have scarring from pelvic surgery, pelvic inflammatory disease, STDs or endometriosis, are at a higher risk for ectopic pregnancy.  

Relevant Conditions
  • Endometriosis
  • Infertility
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
Side Effects
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Dizziness or weakness
Share this article
  • Cleveland Clinic. “Etopic Pregnancy.” Updated October 2010. Accessed August 2013.
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Frequently Asked Questions 155.” Accessed August 2013.
  • Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. “Chapter Update: Infertility, Pregnancy and Childbirth” President & Fellows of Harvard College 2006. Accessed August 2013.
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