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Question 51. How can you have an ectopic pregnancy after IVF?

Posted May 31 2011 9:20pm
Where does the time go? Here we are the last day of May and there are so many projects that I need to get to before June.....not looking so good here at 9:35 pm. Oh well, tomorrow is another day and I will just have to keep plugging away. Currently, DrD and I are working on several papers simultaneously including a chapter on Natural Cycle IVF for a textbook on infertility. I spent hours this past weekend slogging through paper after paper trying to extract the salient information as we reviewed the experiences with Natural Cycle IVF from clinics around the world (England, Japan, Slovenia, The Netherlands, Norway.....). All those places to visit and here I am unable to get away to New Jersey for the day because I am too busy. Traveling can be tough on anyone. But an embryo that travels out of the uterus following an embryo transfer after IVF can be heart-breaking. Although many patients are emotionally prepared for IVF to fail or for them to possibly suffer a miscarriage, the possibility of ectopic/tubal pregnancy is usually not on the radar screen.

Unfortunately, ectopics can occur following IVF (albeit rarely ~ 1-3%) in spite of all of our best efforts to place the embryo precisely in the uterus under ultrasound. Still it is a real disappointing end to a treatment cycle. Most ectopics can be treated medically with methotrexate but surgery still has a role in the management of ectopics. Years ago, before electricity, when I was a resident in Ob Gyn there was a saying passed down to junior house officers...."Never let the sun set on an ectopic." In other words, get that patient to the operating room now and don't mess around.

Seems a bit dated but not unreasonable advice in some cases....

So as we move to June here is today's Question of the Day...


51. How can you have an ectopic pregnancy after IVF?


The exact mechanism responsible for an ectopic pregnancy following an IVF procedure is unknown. Some believe that embryo migration up into the fallopian tubes occurs because of local cellular activity or fluid mechanics present inside the uterus. Sometimes the opening of the fallopian tube in the uterus is dilated because of disease, making it easier for the embryos to enter the tubes.

As described in Part 3, an ectopic pregnancy can occur within the section of the fallopian tube that passes through the muscle of the uterus or within the short segment of fallopian tube that remains after surgical removal of the tube. The incidence of ectopic pregnancy following IVF ranges from 0.5 % to 3%, but this figure may be decreasing. For the past several years, embryo transfer has been routinely performed using ultrasound to properly guide the embryo catheter to the optimal uterine location, which may help to reduce the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. However, even ultrasound guided embryo transfer cannot eliminate the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy after IVF.
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