Tubular pregnancies are abnormal pregnancies that occur when a woman’s fertilized egg becomes slowed down or stuck inside one of her fallopian tubes on the way to the uterus. Tubular pregnancies are also called ectopic pregnancies–ectopic means “out of place”–though more than 95 percent of ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes and are thus tubular. These pregnancies are typically caused by a buildup of scar tissue in the fallopian tube or by certain birth defects.
Tubular pregnancies are relatively common, with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) estimating that more than 1 in every 100 pregnancies are ectopic pregnancies. Women between 35 and 44 years of age are most at risk, though any women can experience a tubular pregnancy. The effects of a tubular pregnancy are rarely fatal. In fact, the NLM notes that the death rate is less than 0.1 percent. A tubular pregnancy cannot be saved with present medical science, since the developing tissue must be removed completely for health reasons.
There are a number of initial symptoms caused by a tubular pregnancy. Often, the first effects of a tubular pregnancy will be abnormal vaginal bleeding and a sharp, stabbing pain in your abdomen. You may feel this pain on only one side and the pain may come and go. You may also experience mild cramping on one side of your pelvis and lower back pain. Some of the other symptoms associated with tubular pregnancies are very similar to those of a normal early pregnancy and include nausea, breast tenderness, amenorrhea (missed period) and frequent urination.
One of the main physical effects of a tubular pregnancy is a ruptured fallopian tube, a potentially life-threatening complication. If one of your fallopian tubes ruptures, the initial symptoms tend to become much more severe and the lower abdominal pain will grow sharper and more acute. This may be followed by dizziness and pain in your shoulder or neck. If not treated quickly, internal bleeding caused by the ruptured tube can lead to shock and possibly death, though this is rare.
Being diagnosed with a tubular pregnancy is usually out of the blue and can be an emotionally traumatic experience. Since it is a similar experience, many of these emotions mirror the emotions felt by women who have suffered a miscarriage, including anger, depression, sadness, self-blame and guilt. These feelings are the normal part of the grieving process. Women who have suffered a tubular pregnancy may also have an increased fear of losing their fertility.
In some severe cases, doctors will need to remove all or most of the fallopian tube or other reproductive organs in order to treat the abnormal pregnancy, which can lead to infertility. According to the NLM, 10 to 15 percent of ectopic pregnancies lead to infertility. The Nemours Foundation website also notes that having one tubular pregnancy increases your chances of having another one by 15 percent. Fortunately, these long-term effects are not inevitable. In fact, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that more than 50 percent of women who experience a tubular pregnancy will have a healthy baby in the future.