Lily's experience of an ectopic pregnancy while using an IUD (Intrauterine device or coil)

06 Aug 2021 | By Kerri
Personal Experience.

The symptoms started around 2-3 weeks before I received a diagnosis. Excruciating stomach pains, which I put down as either IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)  or some kind of menstrual cycle related cramping, began radiating through me a few times a day. I tried cutting out white bread (this was gutting!) and trying to de-stress, which seemed to be helping – confirming my self-diagnosis of IBS. I had an IUD (intra-uterine device) in place, so the chances of pregnancy were 2 in 1000 (hence, I didn’t even think this was possible!). There was no bleeding and no other significant symptoms. I am also one of the world’s number one hypochondriacs and users of Dr Google!

After days of pain, I decided to make an appointment with my GP, just in case it was something more sinister. I headed home with no answers, but my GP told me to head to the walk-in ASAP if the pain returned. Soon enough, the following day, I ended up sitting on the floor of the gym unable to move. I headed straight to the 24hr surgery and again, was about to head home with an IBS diagnosis, when the GP told me that my pregnancy test had been returned positive.

I was in complete shock. A million thoughts rushing through my mind- pregnancy was so, so unexpected and this was not the way I’d ever imagined I would first hear that news. I knew that the risk of an ectopic (the foetus being outside the womb) was likely with an IUD in place, but I didn’t know much about it and definitely had no concept of the severity of it and how fast it could cause life threatening issues if not seen to.

I was booked for an ultrasound first thing in the morning but I felt uneasy, so I went to A&E overnight. I was triaged immediately and all the checks were performed (except an ultrasound). I was discharged again (mainly because there was no external bleeding visible) and was told it was unlikely to be ectopic, so I went home. Still feeling uneasy, I cancelled my ultrasound at the radiology clinic and returned immediately to the gynaecology ward in the morning, asking for an ultrasound in hospital there and then. As soon as I had the ultrasound it was all systems go – no foetus could be seen in the uterus (yet blood tests suggested I was seven weeks pregnant) and there was an enlarged area on my Fallopian tube, along with evidence of internal bleeding. I was called into emergency surgery, which was to start as soon as possible due to the bleeding which had already begun.

The rest is quite a blur. Everything happened so fast, it was a question of ticking boxes and putting on the clothes for surgery, praying that I was going to be okay. The pain was returning at this point and I felt so scared.

I was put under general anaesthetic and laparoscopic surgery was performed. They removed the Fallopian tube and the pregnancy, as well as the IUD. I had already lost 300 ml of blood so this was also brought under control. A previous suspicion of endometriosis was checked for and a biopsy taken to evaluate, as with so much going on in there it was hard to know what was what!

All in all, the surgery went well and I was incredibly well supported by my partner Hamish (who was also going through the trauma in a different way), the doctors, my amazing friends and my incredibly concerned family the other side of the world. I stayed the night in hospital and was discharged the following day.

It was then a question of taking each day as it comes, and trying not to suppress anything. Everything that happened was a huge shock and trauma to my body- which was not just on the conscious level. I had very confused feelings, since the pregnancy was not planned, yet I still felt an immense sense of loss and grief. On top of this, the pace and the shock of the experience led to constant flashbacks and replays in my mind of “what could have happened”. Sitting with the grief, the loss, the shock, the pain and the confusion was (and still is) important for me to do, and not putting on a brave “I’m fine” face 24/7.

Thank you to Lily for sharing her experience with us. If you would like to share your experience of ectopic pregnancy, please visit our guide for more information.

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