October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. This used to be something that would come across my newsfeed that I would acknowledge with a heart reaction and continue to scroll. I would try my best to empathize with the people that were dealing with this type of loss, but there was no way I could understand the magnitude of their grief. That is until now. Now I am one of those woman who makes up the statistic 1 in 4. That’s right, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. But that’s the thing, I didn’t have a miscarriage.
I experienced an ectopic pregnancy. Many people have never even heard of this term, for one because it is so rare and also because miscarriage and pregnancy loss in general are practically forbidden topics in today’s society. There is so much shame surrounding miscarriage and pregnancy loss and because these matters aren’t talked about, it often leaves people uneducated. We need to have these conversations. Not only will it spread awareness, but it will also spare women the shame of talking about their experiences.
In honor of pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, I’m going to share some facts and shed some light on ectopic pregnancies. An ectopic is a pregnancy in which the fertilized eggs implants outside of the uterus. The most common type of ectopic occurs in the Fallopian tube. Although, the fertilized egg may grow outside of the uterus, it cannot survive. If left to grow, it may damage nearby organs and cause life threatening loss of blood.
Ectopic pregnancies are rare as only 1 in 50 or 2% of pregnancies are deemed ectopic in the United States. Although some women may experience pain or bleeding, there are not always pressing symptoms. I myself had been bleeding since I got a positive pregnancy test, but because bleeding is a also a common symptom of early pregnancy my doctor wasn’t concerned. My HCG levels were rising appropriately which further led my doctor to believe that I was experiencing a healthy pregnancy. Other symptoms that women might experience are extreme one sided abdominal or pelvic pain as well as a shooting sensation at the tip of their shoulder. I experienced the shoulder pain the day my pregnancy was ruled ectopic. I was also feeling very light headed and dizzy, which are not as common, but still symptoms of a possible ectopic.
I didn’t seek care because of my symptoms though. I went to the emergency room because I knew in my gut that something wasn’t right. My bleeding hadn’t subsided for over two weeks and it evolved into this very discerning brown color. It was as if my body was sending me warning signals. It is so imperative that you listen to your body and advocate for yourself. No body, not even a highly reputable, educated doctor knows your body better than you.
By the time my ectopic pregnancy was detected I was beginning to bleed internally. One of my doctors suggested doing the methotrexate shot, because it didn’t appear as though my tube had ruptured. My other doctor urged that we take a more aggressive approach because even though my tube had not ruptured, they detected free fluid in my pelvis and it needed to be addressed right away. The methotrexate shot is basically a form of chemotherapy that will kill the cells and stop them from continuing to divide. The thing is, is the shot does not work immediately and could take multiple doses to be successful. If the shot does not work quickly enough, the pregnancy could continue to grow and ultimately result in a ruptured tube as well as fatal consequences. If an ectopic is discovered early enough, the shot is the best form of treatment as it doesn’t entail invasive surgery or the loss of a Fallopian tube. With that being said, if you get the shot, you have to wait at least 12 weeks before you can try to conceive again. The chemotherapy from the shot depletes your body of all of its nutrients, including folate which is vital to ensuring the proper growth and health of a fetus. It is imperative that you allow your body time to be replenished with all of the important nutrients it needs to sustain a pregnancy. The shot may be less invasive, but it surely takes a toll on your body.
I ultimately ended up with the surgery. Most of the time the procedure conducted to treat an ectopic pregnancy is called laparoscopic surgery. It is a technique in which short, narrow tubes including a camera are inserted into the abdomen through small incisions. The surgeon was able to treat and remove the ectopic pregnancy as well as my left Fallopian tube without cutting me wide open. In some cases, a bigger incision may need to be made, but it is not common.
The recovery time from surgery varies from person to person, but most people tend to feel better after about two weeks. I’m nearly 3 weeks post op and I still feel slight tenderness near my boo boos as Beau refers to them, but I am no longer bleeding and my most recent pregnancy test has come up negative. My body is slowly beginning to recover and heal, although I’m emotionally still catching up.
The prognosis for being able to conceive again is good. Despite what some people are led to believe, losing a tube does not cut your fertility in half. Your remaining Fallopian tube has the ability to catch the egg from ovary on the tubeless side. Many women who experience an ectopic pregnancy go on to carry full term babies.
I started my blog to talk about the things that others are too afraid or ashamed to talk about. Lately, it seems as if I am fulfilling my purpose more than ever. Part of me wonders if I was put through this trauma, because I’m brave enough to talk about it. I hope that my story helps others to heal and possibly saves a life. I know that some choose to process and grieve their trauma privately and I respect that. I want to be the voice of reason and hope that every woman, no matter how they navigate their loss, can cling to. No one should have to go through this alone.