Isn’t it ironic that most of us spend our whole life trying not to get pregnant and then when you actually want to fall pregnant, you can’t?!
I was lucky enough to get pregnant pretty quickly after getting married, I was so excited and, as the world’s most impatient person, I found out very early on. My obsessive side took me to see Bill Smith an expert scanner who said I was pregnant but that it was very early and I was to come back in a week; he was worried that the pregnancy might not actually be in my womb. What did he mean? Not in my womb? The funny thing was that I had started reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting the day I found out I was pregnant, turning down corners and highlighting things. But the one page I had flipped over, uninterested in, was the page entitled, ‘Ectopic Pregnancies.’
Bill asked me to go for a blood test to test my HGC pregnancy hormone levels before seeing me again and the long week’s wait was awful. The minute he started the scan, I knew the news wasn’t good and I was just very lucky we caught it so early. He told me that I had an ‘Interstitial Ectopic’, which is very rare and means that the pregnancy had settled, not in the tube but at the entrance to the womb.
They sent me to St Mary’s where they scanned me again and suggested an injection of Methotrexate, a cancer drug that kills rapidly dividing cells. I was told that it didn’t always work, in many cases a second dose would be needed and I might still need surgery to remove the pregnancy.
Luckily the drugs did work and my daily blood tests for the next week showed my HGC levels halving each time. It was a waiting game, and each day I crossed my fingers hoping that my body would help do the right thing.
I won’t go in to too much detail but it’s much like a miscarriage. My husband and I were both devastated and I couldn’t believe I had to wait 3-6 months before trying again. It seemed like eternity but looking back it was a drop in the ocean. Your hormones play havoc and I knew what to expect but I didn’t like feeling so down all the time. Not very me!
A few weeks later I was sent to have a Hysterosalpingogram (a procedure whereby a dye is put through a thin tube to see if there is a blockage) to see if the tube was blocked. I knew as soon as they started that it was, I felt a sharp pain and as they tried to push the ink through, the pain just got worse. I was told that the tube may have been blocked from the pregnancy or may have already been blocked, something I’ll never know.
They say that with one tube you’re chances of getting pregnant are reduced, so I was ecstatic a few months later to find I was pregnant with my son. I was closely monitored, as you’re more likely to have another ectopic if you’ve had one before but Bill told me that this time, it was in the perfect place and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. And as if my luck couldn’t have gotten any better, I fell pregnant again very soon after my son arrived and I now have Irish twins, my daughter being only a year younger.
My children are now 5 and 6 and we finally made the decision to go for another, tempting fate perhaps but we did all the same and I found out that I was pregnant on New Year’s Eve on holiday in the Caribbean. I took a rickety old pregnancy test and we were so happy to see that little blue line. In the back of my mind, I thought about ectopics and tried to push it to the back of my mind and enjoy my family time. I did, however book a scan for when I got home.
It was Monday morning and my husband and I talked about the scan. I said, ‘I’m either going to come out skipping and dancing down the road the happiest person on earth, or it’s going to be bad news and I don’t know what we’ll do.’ My husband is seriously supportive and said that together we could get through anything, and to remember our two gorgeous children and how lucky we are.
I went in for the scan and knew something wasn’t right the minute the screen came on. She couldn’t find anything and said to come back in a week. I begged her to look further and especially on the right side where I’d had the ectopic. It took quite a long time and some prodding and poking before she bit her bottom lip and said, I’m so sorry, I think this could be the pregnancy and it’s not in the womb. When I got changed she asked if someone could come and get me and that I needed to go straight to A and E. I had just been on a long haul flight and had been incredibly fortunate that it hadn’t ruptured.
I’m very lucky with My Baba to have a great support network and between Etienne Horner and Julie Price they had a second opinion scan which confirmed another Intersistitial Ectopic on the same side and had me rushed in to Ertan Saridogan, a specialist in the field.
I had more blood tests, which confirmed that my HGC levels were high at over 5000 and that surgery was my only option. It was all very quick and my mother came to be by my side. I told her I was fine and it would be a 15 minute operation and I would be home the same day. She insisted and thank goodness she did.
My husband took me in at 5am the following morning and I went in to surgery at 7 o’clock and I was back in my room a couple of hours later. My mother waited with me as I came around all groggy and not really with it. She told me that the surgeon has said it had taken longer as it was more complicated than he though but that it had gone well and I should be able to go home late that night. It was my son’s birthday the following day so I was desperate to get home before he woke up.
The day that followed was a bit of a haze and I hate to say it, but getting out of bed wasn’t easy. I had key hole surgery which meant two small incisions either side of my stomach, a bigger one in my belly button and another below the pant line.
My mother was amazing and got me up and out of bed with ease; pulling me by my hands so the muscles didn’t need to work. The nurses were also wonderful and said I had to do a wee before they would let me home. It sounds ridiculous but it wasn’t easy. In the end after peppermint tea and a lot of running water, I made it and didn’t need a catheter.
The surgeon came to see me at 7pm and gave me the all clear. Bed rest for a few days and off work for a further week. I had no idea how long it would take and quite how sore my tummy would be but like everything, time is the best healer and after a week I was well on the road to recovery.
I went back to see him to check the stitches which he said would disappear in five weeks and he was pleased with the progress. He showed my husband and I images from the surgery, ones from the keyhole camera and it was pretty shocking. The right tube removed, along with the pregnancy and serious stitches along my womb. He told me that I could try again for another baby if I wanted in a good few months but that if I did fall pregnant, there was still a chance of further ectopics and I would need a caesarean. I asked how many of these surgeries he did as I knew from friends and my website that ectopics were more common than I thought. He said 15-20 tubal ectopics and when I asked how many like mine, an intersistitial and to that he replied, maybe one.
I’m writing this now six weeks on and apart from feeling a bit sad and having the odd mood swing, I feel OK. I don’t know what the future will hold for me but I know that I have a loving husband and two gorgeous children and I’m not sure if I should wish for anything more.
If you’re in a similar situation and want help and support, please contact Wellbeing of Women, @WellbeingofWmen, Tel: 020 3697 7000,Address: First Floor, Fairgate House, 78 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1HB
Or The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, a small but hard working charity that relies mainly on volunteers. It was founded with the aim of raising awareness about the condition and supporting people through a physically and emotionally traumatic experience that threatens the lives of one in 80 women, is still the leading cause of death in early pregnancy and, more often than not, damages a woman’s fertility.