Ectopic pregnancy possible -- what's allowed?


I have a 99% chance of miscarrying (HCG levels very low and very slow to climb and spotting/bleeding). With those symptoms in mind, they will do ultrasound this week to see if I have ectopic/tubal pregnancy.

Everything I’ve read has said that there is a medication that keeps the embryo from growing and allows for a “natural” abortion/miscarriage which also saves the tube for a future pregnancy. The other option is surgery to remove tube before it bursts.

I’m praying this is NOT a tubal pregnancy of course. But I’m curious – at this point in pregnancy and with my numbers so low, the baby is most likely not viable and a heartbeat will not be detectable.

I’m unsure about the teachings of the church as far as what I can do. From what I’ve read on Catholic sites so far, my tube has to burst and I have to put my life at risk before doctors can step in without committing a sin myself or having doctors commit sin by removing embryo. Is this possibly true?


How did I forget this question:

What happens to the soul of the baby? I had a miscarriage in January as well and have wondered about the unbaptized souls of unborn babies.

Thanks in advance.


Kimber –

My prayers are with you. We lost a child to an ectopic pregnancy. In 93, I was late and took a home pregnancy test – it was positive. Wanting to surprise my husband on Valentine’s Day, I did not tell him. This was our second child.

About a week later, I was hit with a sharp, horrible knock me to my knees pain in the lower left side of my abdomen. Went to the ER, they did a blood test confirming the pregnancy and did an internal ultrasound to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. The ultrasound came out fine and the doc said he could see everything fine in the uterus, and the next morning, I made an appointment with my OB/GYN. Two days later, the pain came again – like a bullet to the side, and I began bleeding. The tube had ruptured.

At that point, it was emergency surgery to save my life. They removed the damaged portion of my left tube, of course, the baby was already gone.

At this time, I was not Catholic. Our denomination did not believe in infant baptism. When I became Catholic, it took quite some time to come to peace that my child died unbaptized. I trust that our child is with God, and that I will see and hold her someday.

[font=Franklin Gothic Medium]I pray for you, for your family, and for your child.[/font]



I am sorry you are going through this. I will pray for you and your babies. I can’t say I’m an expert on this. I’d advise you to speak to a good priest to be sure about what is allowable in an eptopic pregnancy - rather than take the word of someone not in authority as certain. Maybe this has been asked in the “ask the apologist” section. Perhaps you should post in that section, or call CA and speak to them personally (I know it would be more comforting to me to be sure I was getting the right answer).

That said, here’s what I understand about the issue: There are ways to treat an eptopic pregnancy that, while they will result in the death of the baby, are morally acceptable. The death of the baby has to be an indirect effect of another action. For example, a doctor could remove the section of the fallopian tube that the embryo is in. Of course the embryo will not be able to live, but it won’t have been directly harmed, and your intent will not have been to kill the embryo, but instead to remove the part of the fallopian tube that is causing danger to you. So the intent and the cause of death is indirect. To do a treatment in which the only and direct purpose is to cause the death of the embryo, would not be allowed. I don’t know enough about tubal pregnancies to know if there are other treatments that are allowable or not.

As for the soul of a miscarried baby: The catechism states this about the salvation of unbaptized children:
"1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”[63] allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism."
In other words, we believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. But we also believe that God is merciful and loves these little souls, and we have hope that he has a way for them to come into his presence. Unfortunately, we have no certainty in this. I think it is great to pray for the children we lose to miscarriage and, I think we can even ask for their prayers for us. If they’re in heaven what powerful intercessors they could be, and if not - well I think even souls in purgatory can pray for us, right? So I don’t think it’s wrong to do this.
May God Bless you and your family.


You’ll be in my prayers this week.

As a practicing physician, I will advise you against letting your Fallopian tube burst before being treated. Depending on where in the tube the implantation occured and what condition the tube is in, they may be able to remove only the part of the tube where the ectopic is, and not take the entire tube.

The medication you refered to is called methotrexate, which was developed as a chemotherapy drug used to arrest the growth of cancer cells. In the past 10 years or so, it’s also been used to treat ectopic pregnancies and rheumatoid arthritis. Essentially, it causes the cells to stop dividing.

I apologize for not having more info about the moral implications. If you are a candidate for the treatment, than using the drug instead of surgery would be a better option (and this is coming from a surgeon!).

If you haven’t done so already, you might want to pose both of your questions in the “Ask an Apologist” forum.


May God be with you.

For information on Ectopic pregancies and Catholic moral theology, I recommend the following article

Ectopic for Discussion
A Catholic Approach to Tubal Pregnancies

For html view, click here:

Here’s an excerpt:

The majority of Catholic moralists reject MTX and salpingostomy on the basis that these two amount to no less than a direct abortion. In both cases, the embryo is directly attacked, so the death of the embryo is not the unintended evil effect, but rather the very means used to bring about the intended good effect. … [font=Times New Roman]The majority of Catholic moralists, while rejecting MTX or a salpingostomy, regard a salpingectomy as different in kind and thus licit according to the principle of double effect.

You do not need to wait until the tube ruptures, according to Catholic moral theology.

You’re in my prayers.


You defintely do not need to wait until the tube has ruptured. You do, however, need to make sure they actually remove the part of the tube with the baby. They cannot milk the tube or cut it open take the baby out and repair it.

We had an ectopic with our first one and we did not know the second type of procedure was even an option and with no consultation our very uneducated, Catholic, doctor did option number 2 and was quite proud of himself. Argh! We thought he would just remove the tube so there was no culpability on our part. He still doesn’t get it and thankfully I’ve found a more educated Catholic doctor.

As far as the baby’s soul, the Vatican has actually just appointed a group to study this. What we do know now is that God is merciful and this can be our comfort. We know God has taken care of it and it’s out of our control.


Thanks everyone for replies. At this time, I do not know if this pregnancy is ectopic (although I show most of signs of that).

Are options that save tube okay if fetus does not have heartbeat and is no longer alive?

Thanks again. I’m going to go read that website now.


Are options that save tube okay if fetus does not have heartbeat and is no longer alive?

Yes. As the article above states:

the use of any of these treatments morally acceptable ***… when an ectopic pregnancy has been diagnosed, but no signs of life exist. ***


[quote=Kimber]Thanks everyone for replies. At this time, I do not know if this pregnancy is ectopic (although I show most of signs of that).

Are options that save tube okay if fetus does not have heartbeat and is no longer alive?

Thanks again. I’m going to go read that website now.

I can’t imagine why not because there is no pregnancy at that point. However, it is important to remember that the heart only starts beating between 18 and 21 days. My ectopic was actually diagnosed earlier than that. You’d want to confirm that the pregnancy has progressed far enough that there would be a heartbeat.

As far as the medication goes (missed that in the first post), I can’t see how that would be acceptable.


Thanks everyone…

I did have ectopic/tubal pregnancy and had emergency surgery on Nov 23. I had just left from talking to my priest when pain started.

The pregnancy was removed and the tube was saved (doctor did not think it would be).

Our priest had told me that the medicine or surgeries would be fine in the case of ectopic since regardless of method used, the intent is to save the mother’s life. It helped that there was no heartbeat and I was 7 weeks pregnant so there should have been (by 5 weeks there should be heartbeat and by 6 weeks you should be able to see it on ultrasound if not sooner)…there was also no fetal pole visible on ultrasound…

I know many of you will disagree with what my priest said.


I’m sorry for your loss.

Our priest had told me that the medicine or surgeries would be fine in the case of ectopic since regardless of method used, the intent is to save the mother’s life.

I disagree with your priest with regard to cases where there are signs of life present. In your case, he is correct, in my opinion and in accord with the article I posted earlier, which expresses the view of the majority of Catholic moral theologians. But if there were signs of life, your priest’s view is unsupportable. I suggest he ought to study the matter further, perhaps reading the article I provided earlier as his view seems contrary to Catholic teaching (in cases where signs of life are present).

You remain in my prayers.


May your child rest in the arms of God. May you find peace and healing.


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