It never occurred to me that we would have trouble having children. I’m from a huge Irish Catholic family with siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins everywhere! I assumed when it was my turn, I’d add to the clan with no troubles at all. So you can imagine my surprise and distress when the wheels fell off so spectacularly for us.
It was with innocence and excitement that my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby after five wonderful years of marriage. After 8 months of trying, we found out we were expecting our first little miracle. I had a blood test to confirm the pregnancy and were told we were pregnant and that it must be very early as my betaHCG’s were low. We were thrilled! We told our families and even bought an outfit for our little one. I booked to see an obstetrician and my first appointment was to be when I was 10 weeks pregnant.
During the pregnancy I felt off, sort of two dimensional. As I’d never been pregnant before I assumed how I felt was natural and normal. I had pain on my lower left side and when I questioned it I was told about Corpus Luteal Cysts and that the cyst may have been the cause of my pain. When I was 7 weeks pregnant I started to get brown spotting after exercise. It wasn’t much and it didn’t continue so we ignored it. We’d heard and read that many women bled during pregnancy so we assumed that was what it was. On a Saturday night, whilst hosting a lovely dinner party, I began to bleed heavily. We rushed off to the local A&E department where they took bloods and had us wait for the results. The results came back saying I was 5½ weeks pregnant instead of the 8 weeks I was supposed to be. We were told we were miscarrying. They said come back if it becomes painful, and they sent me home.
We were devastated. Absolutely heartbroken.
In the following days I was in and out of the A&E department with heavy painful bleeding and betaHCG’s that were climbing, dropping then climbing again. They did an ultrasound during my second visit and the results said they couldn’t rule out a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or a successful pregnancy that was too early to show on the scan. We didn’t know what was happening. They said it was likely I was miscarrying and referred me to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Service (EPAS), gave me pain relief and told me to come back if the pain worsened.
After five days of not knowing what was happening we called the obstetrician we were booked into see. After hearing our story he told us it was highly likely that I had an ectopic pregnancy and that I needed to come to see him right away. Whilst my husband was on the phone to him I became violently ill. The obstetrician told my husband we didn’t have time to come to him, that he thought my ectopic pregnancy had ruptured and that I had to go to the A&E department immediately or I could die. My husband called our A&E, told them what was happening and that we were coming in immediately. I didn’t want to go in an ambulance as I didn’t want the neighbours to know what was happening (it made sense at the time).
So there I was, back in emergency again. They poked and prodded me, they ran tests and examinations. They looked at my notes. They gave me a lot of morphine and they said I had to stay the night. They said they’d put me in maternity as that was the only place they had beds. I absolutely refused and I was put on the general surgery ward. My husband wasn’t allowed to stay with me that night. It was a tough night. The next afternoon they took me for a scan. I was told I had a mass (code for baby) in my right fallopian tube and that I was bleeding into my pelvis. It was then that we finally knew what was happening. That our little one was in the wrong spot and that he/she had to be removed.
A few hours later I was being prepped for surgery. My surgery was postponed so they could do an emergency c-section. I heard that baby’s first cries. It was the worst night in my life. There was a lovely anaesthetist who stayed with me the whole time and held my hand as I cried. He was a lifeline for me and I’ll forever be grateful to him. I realise now he was also there to make sure I didn’t shuffle off my mortal coil, but his kindness is what will stay with me.
Two days later I was home and having to process all that had happened to me. I’d lost my baby, my fallopian tube, my future fertility had been compromised and I could have died. It was a lot to take in. I’d never heard of ectopic pregnancies before. In fact, knowing what I now know, it’s a miracle any of us fall pregnant at all!
An Ectopic Pregnancy (EP) is a pregnancy that is not in the uterus. 1-2% of all pregnancies are ectopic. They occur most commonly in the fallopian tubes but they can also occur on the ovaries, where the fallopian tube enters the uterus (interstatial/cornual), the cervix, the abdominal cavity and other places. They are the number one cause of first trimester maternal death due to the rapid haemorrhaging associated with rupture. The cause of EP’s is still unclear however there are identified risk factors which include: pelvic inflammatory disease, chlamydia and gonorrhea, endometriosis, abdominal surgeries, previous operations on the fallopian tubes, the contraceptive coil (IUCD), the mini-pill (progesterone only pill), becoming pregnant in the same cycle after trying to prevent pregnancy with emergency oral contraception (the morning after pill), IVF, smoking, and having previously had an EP. That all being said, 50% of the women who present with an EP do not have any of the known risk factors. For great information and support about ectopic pregnancies, have a look at the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust’s website. http://www.ectopic.org.uk/ or the links below.
I asked our obstetrician how soon we could try again. He said after my first normal cycle so we decided to try as soon as possible as we thought it would take months. We were wrong and we fell pregnant immediately. Our beautiful little son joined our family. Amazingly, he came from my right ovary and travelled around to my left tube. The human body is incredible.
This year we thought we’d try again and were thrilled to find out we were pregnant. This time, as with our son, we were closely monitored by our fantastic obstetrician. Everything appeared to be fine until I was 6 weeks and began to bleed. I had a scan within hours and was told they couldn’t see a pregnancy in my uterus. I couldn’t believe it was happening again! This time we did ‘Expectant Management’ which is the technical term for wait and see. I had regular bloods done and we talked about treatment options, such as surgery or methotrexate (a chemo drug which terminates the pregnancy). It was a long, stressful and distressing process.
I don’t know what our future holds. It doesn’t look anything like what I thought it would be. For me, I feel that ectopic pregnancy robs you of your innocence and excitement about trying to conceive and the news that you’re pregnant. I constantly worry that I’ll have another EP as it’s statistically highly likely I will. Even so, I hope our son will be a big brother one day.