If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant in the near future, it is important that you first understand all the risks and complications that can occur with any pregnancy. In many ways, learning how to stay healthy, eat right and exercise during your pregnancy are surefire ways to make sure both you and your baby come out healthy and happy. Taking care of yourself is the best way to ensure a safe delivery. However, in some cases, complications with your pregnancy are out of your control. These conditions are equally important to learn about, as they could threaten both your own life and that of your baby’s.

Ectopic pregnancy is a perfect example of a complication that is out of your control but has serious side effects. An ectopic pregnancy is when an egg that has been fertilized lands and begins growing somewhere outside its usual place in the uterus. Many ectopic pregnancies are also known as tube pregnancies, because the egg begins developing in the fallopian tube. However, these abnormal pregnancies can also begin in the cervix, ovary or abdominal cavity. Approximately one in every fifty women will experience an ectopic pregnancy.

When an ectopic pregnancy has been diagnosed, it will need to be surgically repaired in most cases. The surgery involves extracting the growing fetus from its location. Unfortunately, no treatment options for an ectopic pregnancy allow the fetus to continue growing. In rare cases, medication can be used to stop the ectopic pregnancy. The medication is one also used for treating cancer, and it completely stops cell growth.

In very rare cases, some women choose to go through with the ectopic pregnancy and deliver their baby with a cesarean section. This option is extremely risky. When a woman has a fetus growing anywhere other than her uterus, she could have serious internal bleeding. In fact, ectopic pregnancies are the number one cause of pregnancy-related death in the first trimester.

Ectopic pregnancies are mostly unpredictable, but there are a few risk factors. A prior history of ectopic pregnancies, a damaged fallopian structure, pelvic infections and smoking while pregnant all increase your risks for an ectopic pregnancy. For many women though, risk factors were irrelevant. Before you become pregnant, understand your chances for an ectopic pregnancy, and speak with your doctor about your options should it occur. Being prepared will waste less time before surgery, which could save your life.

Source: Kurt T. Barnhart: Ectopic Pregnancy. The New England Journal of Medicine Voume 361 Issue 4 pp. 379-387 July 2009