Lauren's experience of expectant management treatment

19 Jul 2022 | By Munira

My husband and I had been trying for a baby for about 6-7 months when it happened back in mid-March. I had my period and within a few days of it finishing, I had another heavy bleed. I remember being teary about this as I didn’t know what my body was doing and didn’t feel in control of anything. I did a pregnancy test, but it was negative. Two days after that, I was in crippling lower abdominal pain during the night and went to see my doctor the following day. I did another pregnancy test there and it came back as faintly positive which was a shock. My husband and I talk about this moment a lot because we felt it wasn’t handled well by the doctor – it was more of a happy pregnancy announcement – and we were told to go to the hospital straight after the appointment for a scan as we just needed to check everything was ok before we celebrated. Given the circumstances of me being at the doctors, I think this gave me false hope from the very beginning.

We were told to go straight to a certain department where they were expecting me but this didn’t happen. As the Covid-19 outbreak had just happened, a lot of the hospital has been cordoned off so we ended up in A&E. We were there for seven hours, from 4pm to 11pm, sat in that waiting room seeing people come and go whilst I was enduring this pain. I had another pregnancy test which was again positive and a blood test which was a bit of a traumatic experience because I have a terrible needle phobia. Despite being told I needed a scan at the doctor’s surgery, I was eventually told by the hospital staff that I was so unusually early on that nothing would show up in a scan so it got left at that.
The next morning, I had the results of my blood test which had very low levels of hCG, so I was told I basically needed to be monitored for the next few weeks. At this point, I didn’t know if I had already miscarried, had a problematic pregnancy, or one that could go on successfully.

We went back to my doctor that day because we were confused and concerned – another pregnancy test there and another faintly positive result. He signed me off work for the week so at least I didn’t have to try and deal with it all whilst being at the office putting on a brave face. My husband was able to come in with me for my initial internal scan and first few blood tests which was comforting. I was getting less hysterical with each blood test but was still struggling with them. But then everything tightened up with the Covid-19 outbreak and he couldn’t come in anymore. I’m a nervous driver but didn’t feel I could take my husband out of work just to drive me to the hospital and back, so I then had to drive myself and have these blood tests without any support which was horrible but I dealt with it. At this point, everyone in my office was working from home so at least it wasn’t obvious that I was coming and going with all of these appointments.

My hCG levels were rising ever so slightly each time. I remember each time I got a call to tell me this I was quite happy, because I thought if they were still rising, there was still a chance I could have this baby, even though the person delivering the news sounded concerned by it. At one point, I had three blood tests in one week which was horrible. I felt like a pin cushion. I remember there wasn’t a lot of change with my second internal scan, other than what looked like a pregnancy cyst on my ovary, but I was told they didn’t want to take any action yet because I was still so early, they wanted to give it a bit more of a chance to show up in the scan, in case everything did turn out ok with this pregnancy.

The next scan there was again very little change, apart from some floating clots that could be seen. The lady doing the scan was talking like it was a failed pregnancy, but at this point I was still under the impression there was a bit of hope. So I asked her if we are now definitely looking at a pregnancy that will never become a baby and I’ll never forget the look she gave me, like ‘why are you asking me this at this point, why don’t you know?’ and confirmed there was no chance this would be successful. I was obviously gutted by this news, but it also gave me confirmation of what was happening so after several weeks of not knowing I could start to process it properly. At least I wasn’t in this sort of limbo anymore.

After that scan, I got home and I bled a LOT. I had to call them straight back because I was so concerned. I was in pain again, nowhere near as bad as the first time, but it was still pretty bad and I was curled up in bed for a while. Again I’m thinking, what is happening to me? Why is my body doing this to me? Then I went to the loo and there was a substantial sized… something… in my pad which freaked me out. Then the pain passed. The pain eased off after that but I was bleeding all weekend until my next scan which was with someone very senior.

I was still bleeding for this internal scan which wasn’t great and felt a bit humiliating, even though I know it shouldn’t have felt this way and doctors are always dealing with these situations and wanted to help me. This is when I was delivered the news that it was a confirmed ectopic pregnancy and, even though I knew it was a failed pregnancy at this point, the news was crushing. The only positive thing is that it looked as though I had already miscarried it so they were hopeful my body was dealing with it naturally and I should not need any medical intervention. I was given some helplines and websites to look at from this senior doctor. I had another blood test when I was there too, at this point I’d pretty much conquered my fear and could do it without even crying. When I got home and told my husband it was ectopic, I just cried a lot. I didn’t expect it was going to be ectopic, I thought they just wouldn’t have found where the pregnancy went, so it came as a shock. I had the results of my blood test and the hCG levels had plummeted, but were still slightly over the number I needed to be to be discharged so was told to come back again the following week for what was hopefully my final blood test.

After my next blood test, I was discharged. It was relief and some sort of happiness at that point. At least I never had to go to these intrusive appointments anymore and I could put it all in the past now. I could even have a gin and tonic or two. I was told I should wait one full cycle before we start trying again, but I should be fine as I didn’t need surgery, even though there was a slightly increased chance it could happen again.

My parents and one of my close friends from work knew about this from the beginning. I’m very close with my parents so I called my mum the very first morning I was in all the pain, so they were kept updated the whole time. My friend from work suffers from endometriosis and has a hard time with this, so I felt I could talk to her and she was so supportive too. After I was discharged, I told my brother and his family and a few close friends because I thought any comments asking when were we having children could send me over the edge so I thought it was best for them to just know. I’m glad I did, even though it’s a bit weird they know we’re trying for kids now. I always wanted to do the three month ‘we’re having a baby!’ announcement and to see their surprised faces, but it won’t be like that now. And if and when I get pregnant again, I’ll tell my mum early so she is kept in the loop. The hospital said they will want to do a six week early scan next time to check everything is in the right place.

I received a few cards and gifts from these people which was so sweet, but I didn’t really felt like I needed it at the time. I was just relieved it was all over but we enjoyed the chocolates and flowers that arrived, just made me pleased to have such wonderful friends in my life. I’m very lucky like that. I had a week or so of being a bit down and teary and I was reluctant to get intimate with my husband. There were intrusive thoughts telling me it was my fault for it happening and I kind of associated sex with the pain and trauma at this point. It didn’t last long though – my husband has been super supportive and just wanted me to be happy, although I know he says he has felt quite useless throughout the whole thing because there was nothing he could do to make it all go away.

People told me how well I was dealing with it all and I was surprised too. I’m a very emotional person and I dealt with it all very practically. I had the attitude of it was so early on and I’m the incredibly lucky one to not have to go through any surgery and can try again with both my Fallopian tubes in place. I just wanted to move on with my life and put it all behind me. And lockdown was in full force and that was a much bigger worldwide issue, so that occupied my thoughts a lot more – what was going on?

So that was that. I had a normal period four weeks later and I decided I was ready to try again for another baby. I had looked to the future in those weeks I thought I had someone growing inside me and I wanted that again. I was missing it. We’d still been locked down at this point and working from home, only shortly before my next period the lockdown eased a bit and my company were quite keen on us starting to work in the office on alternate days. I was very reluctant and it was making me feel quite anxious, but felt I needed to as that is what was expected of me, and everyone else was doing it. Luckily I work in a very small company so there would only be a handful of us in the office at each time. I’d also been not that keen to join in with the Zoom or Facetime quizzes or catch ups I’d been invited to in lockdown or even chatting on the phone to friends or family. My parents kept saying how I sounded down on the phone, but I just kept saying there was nothing to talk about – we’d been in lockdown and we hadn’t been anywhere or done anything, so we were encouraged to keep chatting but I literally had nothing to talk about. So I said that’s all it was but I could tell they were a bit concerned. I’d also found that I could really feel my ovaries and had developed what I believe to be ovulation pains since this all happened – so great, I could feel myself ovulate but that wasn’t exactly helping me be in the mood to make a baby, ergh. The other thing is I had been struggling to have a good night’s sleep. I was very restless, tossing and turning and if I could get to sleep waking up a couple of hours later, but I put this down to being in the house too much due to lockdown and the hot weather.

In this time, I was also told of two pregnancy announcements in one weekend, a friend and my friend’s brother (that one was particularly annoying because they only got married in January having never had sex before, and then in May is was a three-month announcement…. Great…). I tried not to be selfish and to be happy for these couples who must be so excited, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of what could have been, so I did shed a few tears with my husband at home. I was also super aware of how many baby adverts appeared on TV and I found them quite hard to watch. They made me feel more angry than anything, like the TV was just rubbing it in my face or something.

So then I had my next period, which weirdly lasted two days which is totally out of the norm for me – it’s usually a good six or seven days. That really concerned me and I made the mistake of Googling it and of course it mentioned it could potentially be an ectopic pregnancy. I had a bit of a cry – I just felt like my body was getting out of control and I didn’t know what was happening and why and if I should or shouldn’t be worried. Or was I pregnant again? I just didn’t and still don’t know. Well, then my parents popped over that afternoon to drop something off and have a cup of tea in the garden. I was putting the garden chairs out and when they arrived and asked ‘how are you’ I just completely lost it. I was a hysterical crying mess. I went inside with my mum and we talked about how I was feeling, though all my crying. I didn’t really know why I was such an emotional wreck, but I did bring up how anxious I’d been feeling and my concerns about my body, and she was very keen for me to speak to my doctor or get some counselling. I had to take the following day off work as I had three hours sleep and felt like a zombified emotional wreck.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then. I was always surprised by how well I coped at the time, but I don’t think I did and I think that’s the problem. I think I was so desperate to put it all behind me and move on with my life and I took such a practical approach of ‘at least it got caught when it did, it could have been so much worse’ and comparing myself to women who miscarry actual babies, so I don’t think I appreciated the toll it would take on me emotionally.

I think lockdown has played a major part. In ways it was good, because I could go to my appointments and come home from them in tears without lots of speculation at the office. I did tell my manager in the end so at least they know what I’m going through and they have been supportive. But I had to go to these appointments on my own mainly, which was quite an isolating experience. I could talk to my mum on the phone but I couldn’t see her or have a hug. So in other ways, it was really bad. I was thinking about it and now my office has eased off a bit and we are starting to go back in, I realized it would be the first time I would have to sit at my desk and face my colleagues since it all happened. And I think that’s the same with my friends and family, I haven’t had to see them in real life since it all happened either. I could do the forced ‘happy chatty’ thing on Facetime, but I didn’t have to actually face them. I don’t know how I feel about that and I don’t know why I feel that way – is it shame? Am I worried I have to try and put on a front? Am I worried I’m being judged? I don’t really know, but all I know is it has been bothering me and that is why I have felt anxious about the world coming back to a sense of normality. I think that is why my sleep has been affected too.

And these past few days, I wondered if I rushed back into trying for a baby too soon. Maybe I’m not mentally in the right place like I thought I was. And maybe we should be waiting until Covid-19 is over and a thing of the past, but who knows when that may be? It could be years, and I’m already 31 – I’m reluctant to put my life to hold as I’m not getting any younger, but is that selfish? Should I do the sensible thing and wait? And sometimes I wonder if it’s my age that caused this – I’d been on the pill for about 16 or 17 years, then I come off aged 30 (biologically getting older for a first time mum) and then this happens. I don’t know, I tell myself it was just unfortunate and unlucky but now and then I get these thoughts. I also tell myself it’s very unlikely to happen again but I still get that fear – I still wonder if it may happen again and I don’t know if I can face going through that trauma again, especially so soon after the first time. And then I wonder if I do get pregnant and it’s confirmed that it is growing in the right place, will I be anxious for the whole nine months thinking I could lose it at any minute? Will any abnormal bleed or twinge send me into panic mode? As you can tell, I haven’t got it all figured out like I thought I did. I also wonder if knowing I’d be at the three-month announcement stage is somewhere at the back of my mind too, and that could also be why all these feeling have come back to the front of my mind recently.

I also sometimes feel a bit abandoned if that makes sense, like I was discharged physically, but there is no follow up appointment with anyone on my mental wellbeing. I wonder if that had happened it might not have boiled up the way it has. But then I know how stretched the staff have been during this pandemic so I can understand why, although I don’t think there would be routine follow up appointments anyway once I was given the all clear physically. I know I was given support information, like your website, but I didn’t feel I needed it at the time and I imagine I’m not alone.

I’ve used a sleep aid to help me sleep these past couple of nights and my husband has slept on the sofa (bless him) so I’m not disturbed, so at least I’ve had some decent sleep so I’m thinking straighter. I’m hoping I’ll get there. And maybe the more I go into the office and the more I see people, the more I will be able to move on with life. I’m reluctant to go the doctor at this point. I’m not depressed as I have a lot of pretty upbeat days amid the not so great days, so I thought reaching out to you, putting my story into writing and sharing with you would help me process it all.

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

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