Risk Factors and Prevention of Ectopic Pregnancies

The reason for ectopic pregnancies is unknown, but damage caused to the fallopian tube could prevent the egg from reaching the uterus. The likelihood for an ectopic pregnancy is higher with the following risk factors:

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Risk Factors and Prevention of Ectopic Pregnancies

  • Previous ectopic pregnancy (15-20% probability)
  • Pregnancy through IVF or fertility drugs
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Certain STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhoea
  • Endometriosis
  • Ages 35 or older
  • Douching
  • Pregnancy after a tubal ligation
  • Previous abdominal or pelvic surgery (such as removing an ovarian cyst)
  • Prior C-section (known as caesarean scar ectopics, its rare, but the risk is higher with more than one C-section)

Women may still have an ectopic pregnancy despite not having any of the above risk factors.

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy

Initially the symptoms are typical of early pregnancy like breast tenderness, fatigue and nausea but as the pregnancy progresses, women may experience:

  • Sudden severe and sharp pain in the pelvic or abdomen areas.
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Shoulder pain.
  • Weakness or experiencing dizziness.
  • Fainting or feeling like you’re about to faint.

If your symptoms include mild pelvic pain and spotting it may be normal symptoms of early pregnancy. However, if you’re experiencing heavy bleeding accompanied by severe pelvic pain or feeling lightheaded or dizzy, you need to go to the emergency room immediately. That’s usually a sign of a late-stage ectopic pregnancy and you are at high risk of bursting the fallopian tube. By seeking treatment during early stages of an ectopic pregnancy, you are more likely of saving your fallopian tube and possibly your life.

Unfortunately, there is no definite way of preventing an ectopic pregnancy. However, being aware of the possible risk factors and avoiding conditions that may lead to scarring of your fallopian tubes can reduce the risk. If you’re pregnant and suspect you may be at risk, speak to your doctor about your concerns.


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  1. I have had three c-sections and had my tubes tied with the last one in 2017 and ever since I have been terrified of ectopic pregnancy. I’m so glad I came across your article so now I know exactly what to look for. Thank you so much!

    • Felicia it is very scary, I was sterilized in December 2013 when my son was born and I had an ectopic pregnancy in January 2018 – it is more common than you may think. Unfortunately I learned this the hard way.

    • Hi Lynne. This sounds horrible and I feel so sorry fir mommies that need to go through this pain. Luckily yiu mentioned the risk factors to look out for and it’s great to know there is ways to prevent this from happening.

    • It’s sad that ectopic pregnancy can’t be prevented. Thank you for listing out all the probable causes It would help a lot of woman to do their best to prevent this type of pregnancy. I’m sorry you had to go through it. Hope you’re all better now.

  2. A friend had 2 ectopic pregnancies and the second one was a medical emergency. Thankfully, she recovered well but could not have a child again. 🙁 Thanks for sharing an informative and insightful post, Lynne.

  3. Excellent article, Lynne. I did not know any of these. I feel quite relieved to never have needed to research this information and have managed to get pregnant normally at the age of 39. I had two risk factors (over 35 and an ex-social-smoker). I did have two miscarriages but I think they are far less traumatic than an ectopic pregnancy. My heart goes out to Moms who go through this.

  4. This is such a sensitive topic and I’m glad you address it on such a public platform. I, for one, didn’t really know much about ectopic pregnancy until ready your story, Lynne. Thank you for being so open and sharing about this to educate women who might not have access to this kind of information.

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