By Katie Moosbrugger
Just the other week, I was chatting with friends and the topic of miscarriages came up. Of the five of us, three of us had had miscarriages. It’s something that is so common, yet rarely discussed. We’ve shared blogs on TMoM about struggles that local moms have had in this department with the hope that it makes others know they are not alone. For my friends, it had been several years since our miscarriages and we have all been blessed with children since then, so it seemed a bit easier to talk about and share our stories. When the conversation turned to me – and when I shared my ectopic pregnancy story – I was stunned to learn a few of these ladies (all in their 40s) had never heard such a term and had no idea what an ectopic pregnancy was!
I guess I figured every woman who has been pregnant – or hopes to be pregnant – would know what an ectopic pregnancy (otherwise known as a tubal pregnancy) is, as well as the risks. Ectopic pregnancies occur 1 in every 50 pregnancies. To me, that’s a pretty high stat. Well, at least high enough that if affected me!
I thought I would use today’s blog to tell my story, as well as provide links to more information about ectopic pregnancies. In my case, I was extremely lucky despite having very few symptoms. Since I’m not a doctor, my goal with this post is to simply create awareness. If you have specific medical questions, please consult your OB/GYN for that type of expertise!
An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself somewhere other than inside the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes (which is why this also sometimes referred to as a tubal pregnancy). Symptoms can range from typical pregnancy signs – to stabbing pain – to light to heavy bleeding – as well as other symptoms like stomach upset or dizziness. Often times, if the fertilized egg begins to grown inside a fallopian tube – you risk the chance of the tube rupturing which can be highly dangerous. If you think you are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, you should seek help right away.
Back to my story, about 12 years ago, we had one child and we were trying again for another. As such, I was very aware of my cycles and was keeping track. I remember we went out of town one week after I just had my period, and I immediately got my period again. I thought it was odd – but because I’ve never had any menstrual complications – and because my first pregnancy was so easy and “by the books” – I didn’t give it much initial thought. But then I started to wonder if the bleeding was a pregnancy symptom. So when we got back from our trip, I gave myself a pregnancy test for kicks – and lo and behold – I was pregnant!
I was always one to take a million at-home pregnancy tests, and I did it this time as well. All of them came back positive, but I distinctly remember the blue “cross” seemed a lot fainter than it should be. Nonetheless, I made an appointment to confirm my pregnancy with a blood test.
The blood test came back positive too. Everything was going along great, so I made my first OB appointment at the usual time which is when they tracked my HCG levels. Again, the doctor confirmed my pregnancy but said the HCG number was a little lower than expected. I had no idea what that really meant, so I asked if it was safe to at least share the news with family, and was told yes.
We were ecstatic, and started to spread the word among our family members. I always wanted no less than two kids (maybe more) who were spaced apart by two years. There we were – moving along as scheduled. Everything was going as planned.
And then I started spotting. Like before, I wasn’t too panicked about it being a symptom of trouble. But to be on the safe side I made an appointment with the OB/GYN. The first thing they did was give me an ultrasound, and I remember the nurse looking puzzled. Soon after, another doctor (who I had never seen before) came in and announced in a very matter-of-factly-way, “Well, if you haven’t miscarried yet, you’re about to at any moment.”
The thought honestly never entered my mind. It was a huge crushing blow – but more so because it was explained to me without any empathy. I was given the pure clinical diagnosis that I will miscarry, and since they could not find an embryo in my uterus, it was most likely in my fallopian tube.
A year prior, a friend of my mine had emergency surgery to remove one of her fallopian tubes that ruptured from an ectopic pregnancy. It was a very serious and scary complication for her. I had no idea what this diagnosis meant for me, and I was terrified.
Just like that, they gave me medication they said was “like a cancer drug because it would root out any foreign cells in my body and get rid of them.” The foreign cells being my baby which my body would eventually absorb (at least that was the hope so my fallopian tube could be saved).
For the next several weeks I walked around somewhat in a trance, not knowing if the embryo was still growing in my fallopian tube, or if it had been “absorbed.” On the one hand, I was supposed to feel relief that I was being medicated. But at the same time, that medication was taking away a part of me – something that I had thought (even if just for a few weeks) was going to be my baby. Still to this day, it is hard for me to make sense of.
Then, literally, out of the blue – and while I was hosting a play date with a friend and her daughter – I became doubled over in pain. I guess that was the medicine finally taking effect. Thankfully the pain quickly subsided that day, but the entire experience has never left my memory.
Like I said earlier, I was extremely lucky. I was also blessed that I did not have any further complications and was able to conceive a little over a year later. Yet, I recognize this is not always the outcome for others.
I wanted to share my story – not to create fear – but to create awareness. No matter if you suspect an ectopic pregnancy or not, if you have any symptoms or signs that make you question your pregnancy – or potential pregnancy – please be encouraged to talk to your doctor. You can never ask too many questions or seek too much medical advice.
On a side note: After this experience I switched to a different OB/GYN. While I remember being extremely frustrated and disappointed in the doctors and how all this was handled, I also realize that – at the time (which was about 12 years ago) – I could have easily have had blinders on. I was wanting so badly to be pregnant that I may have been hearing only what I wanted to hear or hoped to hear. My perspective on the situation may have been completely off. But it also taught me the importance of finding a doctor who is not only a professional I can trust, but also one who has impeccable bedside manners.