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Can the Baby Be Saved in an Ectopic Pregnancy?

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Updated July 14, 2014

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancies can almost never result in a live baby being born.

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Question: Can the Baby Be Saved in an Ectopic Pregnancy?

After receiving a diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in which the baby is implanted someplace other than in the uterus), you may wonder whether anything can be done to save the baby.

Answer:

Unfortunately, the answer is no. When a pregnancy is growing anywhere except in the uterus, the pregnancy poses serious risks to the mother's health and can even be fatal if the pregnancy is not terminated. No medical technology exists to move an ectopic pregnancy from the fallopian tubes to the uterus.

Over 95% of ectopic pregnancies implant in the fallopian tubes. A tubal pregnancy has little to no chance of developing to the point that a baby could be born alive -- as the baby grew larger, the fallopian tube would ultimately burst, usually before the end of the first trimester. If an ectopic pregnancy ruptures, the mother can suffer from serious and life threatening complications, and there is no way of saving the baby either. Ruptured ectopic pregnancies are the leading cause of maternal death during pregnancy. Thus, doctors always treat ectopic pregnancies, either with surgery or medication to terminate the pregnancy, in order to protect the mother.

You may have read in the news of a few extremely rare cases in which ectopic pregnancies go to term. There are a few important points to keep in mind when reading these stories. First, these cases usually involve a type of ectopic pregnancy called an "abdominal" pregnancy. In an abdominal pregnancy, the baby is not implanted in the uterus or the fallopian tubes but somewhere else in the abdomen, such as the liver or another organ with a good blood supply. The odds of such a pregnancy occurring and progressing to a point of being viable are less than 1 in a million.

Second, although an abdominal ectopic pregnancy could theoretically progress to a point of being able to deliver a live baby, the situation is rare and always extremely risky for the mother's health due to the likelihood of major hemorrhage and blood loss at delivery. Abdominal pregnancies are even more dangerous than ectopic pregnancies in the tubes -- mothers are eight times more likely to die after an abdominal pregnancy than after a tubal pregnancy.

Sources:

Sapuri, Mathias and Cecil Klufio, "A case of advanced viable extrauterine pregnancy." PNG Mar 1997. Accessed 7 Aug 2008.

Tenore, Josie L., "Ectopic Pregnancy." American Family Physician Feb 2000. Accessed 7 Aug 2008.

Worley, K., M. Hnat, and F. Cunningham, "Advanced extrauterine pregnancy: diagnostic and therapeutic challenges ." American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2008. Accessed 7 Aug 2008.

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