Ali's experience of heterotopic pregnancy

11 Apr 2022 | By Munira
Image text: My ectopic pregnancy experience, heterotopic pregnancy

I found out I was pregnant at the end of May 2020. It was a shock and I was surprised as I was on the contraceptive pill. I felt excited however, as did my husband and we were looking forward to having a younger sibling for our son. A couple of days later, I had a phone call with my GP and they referred me to the Early Pregnancy Unit for a date scan as, having been on the pill, we were unsure how far my pregnancy had progressed. The scan took place the following day, but unfortunately the results were not clear so a further scan was booked for the following week.

However, before the scan date arrived, I was advised to go to A&E as I began to experience pains in my stomach area which led me to have concerns of an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage, but I recall the doctor who assessed me saying: ‘It’s not anything like an ectopic pregnancy – you don’t look or feel ill enough for an ectopic pregnancy.’ Even though I felt dismissed by this, I was also feeling reassured at this moment and hoped that the pain would settle down and the pregnancy would continue.

When the scan did take place, I asked if the baby was ‘in the right place’ and was assured it was, which was again reassuring as they could now see the baby developing in my womb. Unfortunately the following morning, I began to experience severe pain and heavy bleeding. I called the Early Pregnancy Unit and was advised that it could be normal pregnancy bleeding – or a miscarriage. It was a case of ‘waiting and seeing’ what happened.

A week later, I was still in pain and bleeding. I had another scan that showed my baby to be developing as it should. I was relieved but confused and concerned as no answers were given as to my symptoms and I presumed at some point in the pregnancy I would miscarry – which was difficult as I had experienced 3 previous miscarriages. Around ten days after they had started, my pains and bleeding had become unbearable. I went to hospital and was advised I could be miscarrying – but a scan confirmed everything was actually ok and I went home again feeling deflated.

Two days later, my husband rushed me to A&E as I was in so much pain I couldn’t bare it anymore and my gut feeling was something was really wrong. Triage took place though the front desk with a staff nurse due to covid. I was in so much discomfort I could not talk and I was really struggling to stand up. I explained to the nurse what was happening which was stressful.

Due to covid, my husband had to wait in the car park and I was alone and in pain. I was in so much pain I couldn’t even text my husband to let him know what was happening. I struggled to stand and honestly felt like I was going to die. I needed to visit the toilet but could not stand up without help and was hot, dizzy, and felt faint. I managed eventually to get help from a passing healthcare assistant who showed me the toilet. I had at that point started to bleed really heavily whilst I went to the toilet and the health care assistant brought me a pad to help catch the blood.

After tests and examinations, the doctors suggested my symptoms could be due to appendicitis. I was told I would be admitted with a scan the next day. The doctor tried to reassure me that my hCG levels were rising. However, I said to the doctor that as the pregnancy was causing me such intense pain, I wanted the pregnancy to stop and wanted it to stop now (that’s how desperate I was and just wanted the agony to stop). I was admitted to the ward.

The next day, I had more investigations which involved an internal and external exam, followed by an ultrasound scan. The ultrasound findings seemed to show appendicitis as there was free fluid found in my abdomen. I was quickly prepared to have emergency surgery and given reassurance that this would be best for me and was safe (as can be) for the baby. During surgery, it was found that I was not suffering from appendicitis but was in fact having a rare heterotopic pregnancy – a twin pregnancy where one embryo implants in the uterus and another elsewhere. This resulted in a ruptured left Fallopian tube from which I had been internally bleeding. My left Fallopian tube and pregnancy that had implanted there were removed. I was confused and sad when I found out this news when awaking from surgery with the knowledge that I had lost a baby and worried whether the remaining baby would be able to survive the rest of the pregnancy. I was extremely lucky that the pregnancy that was in my womb continued and I successfully give birth to my daughter. Now that she is nearly one year old, I finally feel able to talk about our experience in the hope to help others and to raise more awareness about heterotopic pregnancy.

From my experience, I have learnt how important it is to trust your gut instincts and voice your concerns – and I urge other women to do the same. It is ok to speak up for yourself – or for someone to do so on your behalf. My wish is that by sharing my story and helping to raise awareness of heterotopic pregnancy, I may help prevent other women going through everything that I did. I hope to raise awareness of this rare condition among the public and healthcare professionals so that when a woman presents with ectopic pregnancy symptoms, even if a pregnancy is seen in the womb on a scan, the possibility of another pregnancy being located elsewhere is considered and checked out.

If you would like to share your experience, please email kerri@ectopic.org.uk

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