Though we often hear heartbreaking stories of women who lose their babies through miscarriage, we rarely hear of women who lose a baby as a result of an ectopic pregnancy.
It may surprise you but 1 in 80 pregnancies are ectopic and in the UK it leads to at least 11,000 emergency hospital admissions every year. It is the leading cause of maternal morbidity in the UK, tragically leading to the death of around five women every year.
I had my first ectopic when my daughter was 16 weeks old - I hadn't even heard of the condition. I woke with a vague feeling of discomfort in my lower pelvis but as the morning went on the pain became worse.
Going to the toilet was agony, as was sitting down but thankfully, or so I thought, it eventually subsided. A few hours later I sat down to feed my daughter and the pain returned. Any movement at all was horrendous, I couldn't stand, I couldn't sit and I couldn't walk.
I was taken to my GP who asked if I was pregnant. Pregnant? I'm breastfeeding my 16 week old baby was my less than intelligent reply. I was also permanently exhausted from continual breastfeeding - I couldn't even remember having sex!
Wrong! She looked at me sympathetically and filled out a hospital admission form. I was given an emergency scan which confirmed a pregnancy was developing in my right fallopian tube.
That night I had surgery to remove the pregnancy and the tube was repaired. The only upside was that I was so tired and overwhelmed from the combination of caring for my baby and recovering from major surgery that the loss of my pregnancy passed me by.
The second time was different. My daughter was nearly three, I had a one-year-old son, I desperately wanted another baby so I was ecstatic to discover I was pregnant.
Because I was high risk - once you've had one ectopic there's a 1 in 5 chance it will happen again - I was scanned and had bloods taken every few days to check the pregnancy was developing normally.
My pregnancy hormones were rising which was positive but the radiographer couldn't find the baby – either in the tube or my uterus. One minute I was convinced it was fine, the next I was sick with worry.
Then the pain started and I was devastated. I was listed for surgery the following morning but within half an hour my tube ruptured and I started bleeding internally. I lost consciousness and was rushed into theatre.
When I came round I was told that my right fallopian tube had been removed. Unbelievably I was put into a private room on maternity as the gynae ward was closed. All around me I could hear the cries of newborn babies. I just lay in bed and wept.
Before I was discharged my surgeon advised me to wait at least six months before getting pregnant again. I listened but I was desperate and scared that I would never have another baby.
Four months later I was pregnant and after a week of watching and waiting it was confirmed to be viable. I had my third child, a baby boy, a year after my second ectopic pregnancy.
Statistics show that 65 of ectopic pregnancies are due to tubal damage caused by diseases such as Chlamydia and Endometriosis but the risk is also increased by fertility treatment, using the coil or becoming pregnant whilst using the mini pill.
The pregnancy is usually removed under general anaesthetic. If there is a lot of damage, the affected tube will be removed. (Salpingectomy) If the damage is minimal, the tube can be left intact. (Salpingotomy).
A drug, Methotrexate, can be given to try to stop pregnancy cells growing. In 10% of cases drug treatment is unsuccessful and surgery is later required.
Further information is available at www.ectopic.org.uk.
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