What Are the Different Types of Abnormal Pregnancy?

In rare cases, an abnormal pregnancy can exist alongside a healthy, growing fetus.
An ectopic pregnancy may cause bleeding and pelvic pain.
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  • Written By: Lumara Lee
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 07 August 2014
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Pregnancy is a natural process, but sometimes things can go wrong. Some different types of abnormal pregnancy include pregnancy failure, ectopic, and molar pregnancy. Problems with the placenta may also occur, which can be fatal to the fetus.

It is estimated that 10-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage or pregnancy failure. Fetal abnormalities are the most common causes of miscarriage, but there are other contributing factors. Trauma to the pregnant woman and certain medications can cause pregnancy failure. Heavy activity can also bring about a miscarriage.

In a normal pregnancy, the embryo attaches to the endometrial lining of the womb. One type of abnormal pregnancy occurs when the embryo attaches outside the womb. This is called an ectopic pregnancy. Most ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes, but they can also occur in other sites such as the abdomen, cervix, or ovary. This type of abnormal pregnancy is always fatal to the fetus because the uterus is the only location that provides the proper conditions for a developing embryo.

An ectopic pregnancy may cause bleeding and pelvic pain. Surgery to remove the fetus is the usual treatment. Sometimes, there are no symptoms unless a rupture occurs. Hemorrhaging accompanied by severe pain are the usual symptoms of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. A rupture can cause maternal death but is rare if treatment is provided before a rupture occurs.


A molar pregnancy occurs when tissue that normally would become a fetus develops abnormally and becomes a mole. This can be caused by the fertilization of an undeveloped egg by a sperm. The resultant tissue cannot develop normally, and can grow large enough to fill the uterus.

Another type of molar pregnancy is caused when two sperms fertilize one egg. In this kind of abnormal pregnancy, the placenta develops into a mole. Any fetal tissue that might develop will have severe defects. The woman with a molar pregnancy may experience the signs of a normal pregnancy in addition to unusual symptoms, such as a strange feeling of discomfort in the pelvis and vaginal discharge that resembles grapes. Treatment for a molar pregnancy is removal of the abnormal tissue.

Placental abruption is a condition that occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus before the baby is born. The placenta is the organ that provides the fetus with nourishment. In its most severe and rare form, placental abruption may cause fetal death.


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