A tubular pregnancy, also known as an ectopic pregnancy, is a possibly fatal medical condition that occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. While tubular pregnancies are fairly common, the death rate for woman with an ectopic pregnancy is less than 0.1 percent. Unfortunately, there is no way to save the baby, since the developing cells have to be removed for the mother’s survival.
Tubular pregnancies are relatively common. In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, ectopic pregnancies occur in more than 1 in every 100 pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancies can occur in other places in a woman’s body, like an ovary or the cervix, but more than 95 percent of the time it takes place in one of the fallopian tubes. Left untreated, the egg will continue to grow until the fallopian tube bursts, causing massive internal bleeding that can lead to death.
The overall cause of a tubular pregnancy is due to some type of blockage within one of the fallopian tubes. As the fertilized egg is traveling down the fallopian tube on its way to the uterus, the blockage either stops or slows its movement to such an extent that the egg begins to grow inside the tube. The blockage can be a result of scarring or other defects in the fallopian tubes.
The majority of ectopic pregnancies occur because of scar tissue in the fallopian tubes. Any surgery inside the abdomen, including surgery of the fallopian tubes or uterus, can lead to a buildup of scar tissue. A previous history of ectopic pregnancy can also cause scarring. According to the National Library of Medicine, up to 50 percent of ectopic pregnancies involve a past infection in the fallopian tube such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), gonorrhea or chlamydia.
While it is more rare, certain birth defects have been known to cause tubular pregnancies. These defects can create an abnormal shape of the fallopian tubes and cause the egg to become stuck. Another condition known as endometriosis, in which the tissue that lines the uterus begins to grow in other parts of the body, can also distort the fallopian tubes and lead to a tubular pregnancy.
While a tubular pregnancy can happen to any woman, women between the ages of 35 and 44 are most at risk. Women who become pregnant after undergoing tubal sterilization (having their tubes tied) also have a high percentage of ectopic pregnancies, especially two to three years after the surgery. Undergoing reverse tubal sterilization will also increase the risk, as can taking birth control pills, emergency contraception (the “morning after pill”) or other medications with hormones.