My Fertility Story part 2 - my first ectopic pregnancy

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It goes without saying but TW: child loss.

Only after I started writing this did I realise how much a toll bringing it all up would take, but like they say on Mastermind, I've started so I'll finish. I've had it better than some and worse than others, but everything I've been through has made me a stronger person. Here's the story of my first ectopic pregnancy. It happened 14 years ago but I'll recall it as best I can.

But first, what are ectopic pregnancies? From the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust: Ectopic pregnancy is a common, occasionally life-threatening condition that affects 1 in 80 pregnancies. Put very simply, it means “an out-of-place pregnancy”. It occurs when a woman’s ovum (egg), that has been fertilised, implants (gets stuck) outside the womb. The most common place for an ectopic pregnancy is the Fallopian tube but there are many other sites where an ectopic pregnancy can be located. It is, sadly, not possible to move an ectopic pregnancy into the womb to allow it to grow normally.

It was 2003 and I had no idea what an ectopic pregnancy was until it happened to me. James and I had only been going out for 3 months. I had just started using the pill and we were also using condoms in the changeover period, but little did I know that James's man-product was no match for contraceptives!

The first I knew something was wrong was when the worst abdominal pain I'd had in my life started. I was writhing around in bed all day and the pain was unrelenting, but I finally managed to get to sleep. The next day I woke up and still had a nagging pain (although less intense) so I got an emergency appointment at the doctors. Thus began my first of several internal examinations of the day, and the doctor said he suspected it might be an ectopic pregnancy. I did a pee sample but if I was pregnant it wasn't far enough along to show up on their test strip. I was told to buy a pregnancy test on the way home and if it was positive call them back straight away. I went to Boots absolutely sure I wasn't pregnant, but I picked up a test anyway and went back home to pee on a stick. It was a good job I was sitting down because when those lines appeared I might have fainted had I not already been seated.

I rang the doctors back to tell them yes I was pregnant and was told to come straight back. While I was in the surgery the doctor phoned the gynae ward at the local hospital to tell them I was coming in with a suspected ectopic pregnancy. I went to my local hospital and had more internal examinations, blood tests, urine tests and a scan. The tests confirmed I was definitely pregnant, but I don't think they could see a mass on on the scan (unlike my second ectopic pregnancy) so they told me to come back if my pain got worse. Sods law - as soon as I got back home the pain came back with a vengeance. I'd barely got in the door when I had to go back.

I was admitted, and it was a scary, confusing time - not just because I was likely losing a baby, but because I didn't even know I *could* get pregnant. Apart from the fleeting possibility of miscarriage I'd put out of mind years before I'd never really thought about trying to have kids. I'd never even done a pregnancy test before. It was all too much to take in and I shut down. I was in shock. I didn't ask any questions so I had no fucking clue what was going on, and no one was telling me anything either.

I was in a huge, drafty high ceilinged room which looked like something out of the Victorian age. I saw various doctors and nurses, none of whom seemed particularly warm or sympathetic (in stark contrast to my second ectopic pregnancy in 2011, where the staff were almost entirely fantastic). I was having regular blood tests to see what my hcG pregnancy levels were (which rise as a pregnancy goes on) and I was in so much pain. In the latter stages of my stay when they thought they were going to operate I also saw a surgeon and anaesthetist. None of my family live locally so I only had a visit from James and one of my co-workers while I was there. I felt very frightened and alone. My relationship with James was still really new and he was only 22 - ill equipped to deal with a suddenly pregnant girlfriend. He came down to visit me on the Saturday I was in there then told me he was going clubbing that night. It was totally surreal!

I was in there for 3 days in total, the second of which I spent nil by mouth as they were going to do a laparoscopy the following day. I had yet another blood test on the morning of the third day expecting my operation to be any time, but I'd started bleeding vaginally. A nurse came round and said "We'll take you off the drip and then you can have some breakfast and go home. You're losing it." Again I was in shock. I now know my bloods had shown the pregnancy hormone was dropping and thus the pregnancy was coming to an end, and that was a particularly brutal way to inform me. My aunt was coming to visit me from London, the first of my family to get there, but instead she ended up escorting me home. She said I was as white as a ghost and I remember being totally spaced out. 

I know now this is what's called a tubal abortion, where the foetus dies in the tube. No one bothered to explain this to me though. I was given a few leaflets and sent home. There was absolutely no follow up, no suggestion of counselling, and I wasn't the type to ask for help (or even acknowledge I needed it). I went back to work after a month because I was pressured into it, but I wasn't ready. I don't think you're ever ready after a thing like that. You're changed forever. Everything looks the same on the outside, but you're never the same again. I think I made things worse for myself by pretending it was for the best, that I was unaffected. In truth it affected me very deeply, but I didn't know how to deal with my feelings so I ignored them. I never really learned to mourn until my second ectopic pregnancy in 2011, the one where I nearly bled to death when my fallopian tube ruptured. That had been a planned pregnancy, but I'll talk more about that when I write the next post in this series.

Please read all about ectopic pregnancies here - especially what symptoms to look out for, but I will say this - if there's any chance at all you could be pregnant and you've had sharp, insistent abdominal pain for a number of hours, get yourself to a doctor or early pregnancy unit at your local hospital ASAP. Ectopic pregnancies can and do kill. I'd been in hospital care for over 12 hours with my second ectopic pregnancy when my fallopian tube ruptured. Had I been at home I wouldn't be here to write this today. I would've bled out in the ambulance. You cannot take any chances with suspected ectopic pregnancies.

Thanks for reading.
Leah xoxo

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