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Do HCG Levels Differ In An Ectopic Pregnancy?

An ectopic or tubular pregnancy can be a difficult experience for a woman to go through.  One of the most frustrating parts of an ectopic pregnancy is that it may appear to a woman that she has a completely normal pregnancy right up until she has a miscarriage or an ultrasound that shows the pregnancy is ectopic.

An ectopic pregnancy refers to a condition in which the egg, when fertilized, implants somewhere other than the uterus.  The fertilized egg develops until it is big enough to cause pain for the mother.  Generally, the fertilized egg attaches to the fallopian tubes, the cervix, or in the abdomen.  The fertilized egg cannot develop normally and receive nutrition in these locations.  There is no procedure that can move a fertilized egg from one of these locations to the uterus.

There are some specific signs that come with an ectopic pregnancy.  Generally, a woman with an ectopic pregnancy will have pain in the abdomen or the lower back.  She will likely have vaginal spotting or bleeding.  She may become dizzy or faint.  Her blood pressure might drop.  In addition, the way that the hCG levels in the body rise will be different than in a woman with a normal pregnancy.  In an ectopic pregnancy, hCG levels will be lower, often much lower, than in a regular, healthy pregnancy.  In some cases, the levels of hCG in an ectopic pregnancy may not even raise high enough to produce a positive pregnancy test, although this is rare.

An ectopic pregnancy is treated surgically.  The health care provider removes the fertilized egg from the woman’s body.  This can be done laparoscopically, which is much less painful and evasive than traditional surgeries.  If an ectopic pregnancy is detected extremely early, it can be treated with an injection which will dissolve the fertilized egg.  After treatment for an ectopic pregnancy, your health care provider will likely want to see you again soon to make sure that your hCG levels return to normal.

Ectopic pregnancy cannot be prevented.  Having your tubes tied, having endometriosis, having pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and having previous ectopic pregnancies or other conditions that have left the fallopian tubes scarred are all factors that increase the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy.

Having an ectopic pregnancy does not, in general, prevent a woman from later having a successful pregnancy.  However, about 30 percent of women who have had an ectopic pregnancy will have at least some difficulty getting pregnant again.

Last modified: February 10, 2013

The information provided here should not be considered medical advice. It is based on the average experience of women trying to conceive and may not be what you may be experiencing. It's not meant to be a replacement for any advice you may receive from your doctor. If you have any concerns about your cycle or our ability to get pregnant, we advise you to contact your doctor.