Isla's experience of a tubal ectopic pregnancy

08 Jul 2023 | By Kerri

The first spot of blood arrived when I was six weeks pregnant with my first pregnancy. There was blood on my tissue. My partner came running upstairs, trying to reassure me it was spotting, but deep down I knew it was the beginning of our nightmare. I knew something was wrong. Up until the Friday, I had normal pregnancy symptoms; sore breasts, morning sickness, and severe mood swings. My tests were strong positives – our amazing bubble. I felt like it was a clock ticking away, but as soon as I saw the blood that day, the hands of our clock were coming loose, and we were manically trying to keep them stable to keep it ticking.  


My friend gave me the number for our local Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU). They immediately booked me for a scan at 10:30am the following day. I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night when the bleeding stopped. 


It was the morning of the Kings Coronation when we went for our scan, the greyest, rainiest day. We both had this feeling of excitement for the scan, this grain of hope we had pulled from the depths, looking at each other, hoping it was going to be okay. 


I gave my urine sample and had a blood test. My hCG (Human chorionic gonadotrophin, a hormone produced during pregnancy) levels were above 2,000, so suggested things were going well and still promoting baby growth. Upstairs, in the ultrasound waiting room, 

TV’s were filled with highlights of the Coronation. We were both trying to keep it together. Seeing other couples coming out with their blue books and smiling at each other, we just kept holding on, hoping that would soon be us.  


Called into a dark side room with a nurse, we were asked to go through our journey so far. Well, because you’re six weeks pregnant, we need to do a vaginal scan as baby is too small to be seen on an external ultrasound,”. I lay on the plinth, legs open, knickers off, with a blue paper towel draped over me to preserve some kind of dignity. To my left was my partner and the screen, and then the nurse on the right with the speculum.  


The nurse was completing the checks around the Fallopian tubes and uterus. I saw a glimpse of beating cardiac tissue there – it was our DNA cells creating our baby but, she swiftly moved past it and returned to my uterus. I kept looking at my partner for reassurance. He had his eyes fixed on me. 

“Well, that is your uterus,” said the nurse, “I can’t see any egg in there”. I slowly stared at the screen. The whole room went blurry as I focused on the dark, round, empty space on the screen. “It means you have a pregnancy of unknown location. I need to get you back down to the waiting room to discuss further”.  

Traumatised I had seen our baby. It was there on the screen, but she washed over it like it didn’t exist. 


We sat down and another nurse said, “I’ve looked at the scan that was completed. I don’t feel happy sending you home without completing another scan, is that okay?”. My partner and I nodded and sniffed for the thousandth time that day.  


She stopped the scan: “I’m really sorry. This is an ectopic pregnancy. I can see the baby in the left Fallopian tube, I need to call the doctor and get you admitted to the ward as you are bleeding internally, and this could be fatal”. My partner held me for what felt like a lifetime whilst I sobbed a cocktail of fear and deep despair down both cheeks. Our bubble had officially been popped.  


This led to my admission to the gynaecology ward where I met some lovely staff. My emergency surgery commenced after waiting 21 hours on the trauma list during a bank holiday weekend, that had reduced surgeons and higherrisk patients being prioritised. I was on a drip for fluids and paracetamol to help with the cramping. My second blood test results came back and dropped to an hCG level of 300.  


I was wheeled into surgery, bright lights rolling above me, with the porter carrying a slight aroma of stale cigarettes and the nurse by my right making me laugh in my delirious state. Recovery was hard. I was on morphine for stomach and gas pain for 24 hours, then switched to codeine and paracetamol. I went home the day after surgery and was wheeled out by my partner.  


Getting in the car was painful, physically and mentally. I felt like the world had paused and then I pressed play again. I arrived home and suddenly everything was a trigger. Small things, like the bottle of vitamins I was taking for the pregnancy. Anything at this point made me burst into tears.  


A long journey lay ahead, full of flashbacks, grief, regret, fatigue, counselling, overwhelming fear, and triggers I didn’t know existed. Now still fighting our thoughts with what’s happened, I know we will one day try again for a small miracle that will hopefully be found in the uterus this time. 

Thank you to Isla for sharing her story and helping to spread awareness of ectopic pregnancy. If you would like to share your experience of ectopic pregnancy, please visit our guide for more information.  

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