A woman with a heterotopic pregnancy has one embryo (or more) growing inside the uterus, and one embryo (or more) growing outside of the uterus. Like any ectopic pregnancy, an embryo growing in the cervix, a fallopian tube, or against the outside wall of the uterus can be dangerous for the mother and must be removed.
Early in a heterotopic pregnancy, the ectopic embryo(s) can be easily overlooked, because there are clear signs of pregnancy in the uterus. That is why it is common for the first sign to be pain from a rupture of a fallopian tube or the cervix.
Overall, heterotopic pregnancies are not common. They are most common in women who have used assisted reproductive technology (ART) to become pregnant.
Medical Review:Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology