Life can really shoot ya in the guts sometimes.
A couple of months back my husband Anu and I had to come to grips with a pretty devastating situation. Man situation is totally the wrong word but I don’t know what else to call it. We lost a baby, our third little unborn to not make it to earth. But not only that, I also lost my natural fertility.
See I had an ectopic pregnancy. We were pretty excited when we found out I was pregnant. It was 2 days after my grandmother was cremated, so having something to look forward to was such a blessing. It was surprising as I had just had a period and then started spotting two days later, prompting me to take a pregnancy test. The spotting was a little worrying so I had some blood tests and found the beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (bHCG) was just not rising that quickly. By the way, this doesn’t always mean something is wrong and can be a perfectly normal pregnancy. But given my history of miscarriage prior to my lovely daughters birth, I was anxious as hell and there was no way I was gonna get my stress levels down until I had a scan to check if all was ok. Well, the scan showed nothing. This was a pretty big blow. So there was the possibility that the foetus was too small and just not showing up, but then it could also have implanted elsewhere. We decided to wait and see how the bHCG continued to rise. A few days later I was referred to the hospital to see a specialist, and after much consultation, it was decided the most likely scenario was an ectopic pregnancy. There was still no sign of the foetus so I had to look through my options very carefully before I decided my next move.
If you don’t know what an ectopic pregnancy is, it is a pregnancy that implants outside of the uterus. In most cases, it will be in a fallopian tube but sometimes it can attach to an ovary, the cervix or the outside of the uterus or abdomen. It can be a life or death situation for the mother so it is definitely not something you want to muck around with. Even with the advances in modern medicine, women do still die from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.
So who is at risk?
Women with a history of the following:
- Pelvic infection including STIs and PID
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Previous tubal surgery or sterilisation
- Current or past use of IUCD
- However a small percentage of women have no risk factors for ectopic pregnancy, and I was one of them.
Now let's talk treatment, there are two options. The most common treatment is an injection called Methotrexate. This is a chemotherapy drug that dissolves the foetus and the body naturally assimilates the matter. This option does allow you to keep your fallopian tube or ovary or wherever it has implanted. But it is strong, toxic and scares me silly. Plus it is not guaranteed to work meaning you may still need surgery. It can also not be used once the bHCG is over 5000 as the foetus is too big. The other option is surgery. This is done under a General Anaesthetic and is a keyhole laparoscopic surgery. In most instances, they just remove or partially remove the tissue where the pregnancy is attached.
What did I do? Well, there was no way I was going to use the Methotrexate when it couldn’t be confirmed that the pregnancy was unviable. I opted for the laparoscopy and gave permission to have the ectopic pregnancy removed if it was found. There was still the minutest chance it was in the right place just hiding. The surgery went smoothly and afterwards I was told that my left fallopian tube was swollen and consistent with ectopic so it was removed. I went home that day as I didn’t want another night in the hospital, and the next morning my other grandmother died. Another major blow.
Whilst still recovering I managed to make the flight to bury my grandmother. Definitely not the best week I have ever had. The next day I was called by the hospital and asked to come in to see the gynaecologist. This was just 5 days post surgery. And guess what? The lab results were in and the foetus was NOT in my left fallopian tube. That's right, I was still pregnant! Another blood test confirmed that the bHCG was still rising and was now at a more dangerous level plus too high to consider Methotrexate. A scan showed that the foetus was in my right fallopian tube. Holy shit. Another surgery, that’s my fertility gone.
Naturally, I was feeling very broken. One of the hardest parts was not having Anu there to be with me. He needed to be at home with Bowie, looking after her and helping her to feel as normal as possible. Not easy given that she was being separated from me for the second time in a week. We didn’t want to hide our emotions from Bowie, she definitely saw a fair bit of rawness. But she is only 3, there is only so much that we can allow her to see. This was a pretty good test of both being an adult and a gentle parent. Anu and I didn’t even get to talk properly about what had happened for an entire week after the second surgery. We did get through it. We had some amazing support from family and friends, constant texts, phone calls, cooking us meals, dropping off treats and hugs and just chillin’ with me. I have never felt so incredibly loved. It was the most humbling experience.
We are now waiting to start IVF as this is our only option for a second child. I am very grateful to modern medicine and the fact that I still have my ovaries and uterus! I am not going to lie, considering IVF was definitely a big decision for us, one heavily outweighed by our desire to give Bowie a sibling.
Our case is rare, and most women opting for surgery will still keep one of their fallopian tubes and conceive again, please don’t let my story put you off. I wanted to share this very personal plight with you because I want you to know there are options if you find yourself experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. There is a protocol that Doctors follow depending on your signs, symptoms and bHCG levels, but in general, doctors will encourage the use of Methotrexate if you fit the criteria. And whilst it may save you your fertility the side effects list is terrifying. I urge you to look up the Methotrexate data sheet online and read through it before making the decision.
And if you are currently reading this because you find yourself in a hospital bed having just received the heartbreaking news that your baby is ectopic, I am so sorry for your loss. Take care and surround yourself with people who love and care for you. Don’t be afraid to speak out and ask for help. Big love.