Helen's experience of two ectopic pregnancies and IVF treatment

19 Jul 2022 | By Kerri
Personal Experience

My first ectopic pregnancy

5th September 2016

My husband and I had been trying to conceive for nearly a year. We thought it would be easy, I’d come off the pill and thought it’ll all be simple, we’ll get pregnant and then all we’ll have to worry about is what pram to buy. Unfortunately, on 5th September 2016, our lives changed forever.

Here’s my story of my ectopic pregnancy.

My periods were always pretty straight forward being on the pill from such a young age, I knew when they were due, how long they’d last and how much pain I would/wouldn’t get. I was always pretty lucky, I only ever suffered with a few spots, slightly bigger boobs and a little bit of lower back pain throughout my period, that’s about it.

In August 2016, I was away with work when I was anticipating my period becoming due. I felt like it was coming but as I was away and busy on a work trip I didn’t think anything about the fact that I was actually three days late. I had the usual period like symptoms and was just ‘waiting’ for my period to start. It was an extremely busy time of year so I just put it down to a bit of stress for the delay.

On the evening of Friday 12th August 2016, my husband and I (James) were going to a friend’s wedding party, for some reason I wanted to drive, it was only a 10 minute drive but we were trying to save a bit of money and I didn’t really want a hangover the next day. We got to the party, I felt very anxious as I often do in large groups but had a lovely evening none the less.

I woke up early on the Saturday morning, 13th August 2016. I’m always an early riser (we have a Labrador that insists on a walk asap in the mornings!). I had this sudden urge to do a pregnancy test. I didn’t wake my husband and I did it alone, not really having any major thoughts about it being positive or not. It was a cheap test I had bought months ago, I waited, and it was positive, ever so slightly but it was positive. I didn’t know what to do next, what to feel, I just put the test next to my husband’s bedside table and went to walk the dog. I was in a bit of shock I guess, happy but in shock. We’d being trying for so long.  I left my husband sleeping and I set off with Stan (our dog).

On my return with Stan, I went up to see to James in bed, he hadn’t seen the test. So I told him I was pregnant. He gave me the biggest smile, he had just woken up mind so he was slightly confused, he thought the positive test may have just been an ovulation stick as we’d been trying those aids for a while. He was very pleased as he has always wanted to be a dad.

We both wanted to make sure it was 100% positive so we said we’d go out to get a more expensive test, by this time I was nervous but happy. We got showered and changed and headed out to obtain a pregnancy test from the local chemist. We bought it and went across to a local café. I immediately disappeared to the toilet to do the test, to my absolute joy it was still positive. I took it back to show James (in a tissue in my bag of course) and he was just so happy. He smiled from ear to ear and I remember him saying my beautiful pregnant wife. I took a picture of the test as we were discussing how we should tell our family further down the line. I’ve still got that picture saved, I don’t think I’ll ever delete it.

We carried on our day as normal, bumping into people and feeling like I wanted to tell the world. I was only 5 weeks pregnant so obviously didn’t. We both decided not to tell anyone and would wait until we had a proper scan before we broke the news.

I called the doctor on the Monday morning and said ‘I’m pregnant’ – I didn’t have clue what I was supposed to do! The lady took a few details and advised that a midwife would be in touch, she ended the call saying congratulations. I smiled.

On the Tuesday, I started to bleed, it was very light to start with, so I Googled it and read that this can be normal in early pregnancy so I tried to think positive. I also spoke to my midwife, she seemed pleasant enough. I gave her my dates of last period etc and I remember saying ‘oh and I think I should mention I have some bleeding’. She didn’t seem fazed at all. She asked me a few more details and advised I should see how it goes and if it gets worse to contact her.

The next few days were just spent thinking will the bleeding stop or not and constant Google searches about bleeding in pregnancy, not once did ectopic pregnancy appear in searches.

I tried to contact my midwife but kept getting her voicemail. I contacted my doctors again as I was by now getting very anxious and they gave me an external midwife number to contact. I called the number and it stated, ‘This line is not monitored, do not leave a message’. I was at a complete loss as to what to do next. I felt like I had nowhere to go. I had gone from being happy to very scared and lonely with no professional support.

The bleeding was getting heavier so at this point I thought I was suffering a miscarriage, I wasn’t in any real pain but just wanted the bleeding to stop. I was bleeding so much I had to change my underwear every few hours. This was distressing for me.

It got to the stage where I wasn’t able to concentrate in work so I had to discuss the situation with my business partner as I suffered quite a heavy loss that morning and was constantly back and forth to the toilet. Her mother was a retired midwife and she advised me to call the hospital. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate hospitals, I’d been in a few times to visit my family but not really for myself. I called the EPU (Early Pregnancy Unit) and the lady I spoke to was fantastic. She advised me to come in as soon as I could.

James came with me to the appointment in the hospital, I was met by a lady called Jo, she was really gentle, really listened and took the usual observations. She advised my husband and I that it was highly like I was going through a miscarriage. She also took my bloods that day and I got the results a few hours afterwards. The doctor explained my hormone levels should be a lot higher than they were and that I would need to come to the hospital every 48 hours to be monitored. She explained the hormone levels should be doubling every test as this is what happens when you’re pregnant (I didn’t have a clue about this!). If they were falling, then I was losing the baby.

48 hours later, I went back to the hospital as planned and had another blood test. The test showed that my hormone level had increased. But only slightly and nowhere near doubled. James and I were very confused and James asked a nurse what does this result mean? The nurse casually said to him it maybe ectopic and they need to see if the hormone levels plateau. James didn’t really have a clue what she meant and had never heard the word ectopic before. I didn’t hear the nurse mention this but James did tell me what she said.

I spent the next week at the hospital every 48 hrs checking to see if my hormone levels were decreasing…this was so disheartening and draining. The third blood test showed my hormone levels had decreased. This is when James and I got into our head I that was having a miscarriage.

We had planned a trip to London a while back and decided to still go and visit family even though I was going through a horrible time. I explained what was happening to my brother and sister in law. On the way back from London, we attended my nephew’s birthday party which was a particularly hard time for me as trying to keep a smile when all I could think about was what was wrong with me. Nobody knew at this point I was pregnant let alone what James and I were going through.

James told his family at the birthday party. We had to leave early to do another blood test so he wanted his family to know why we had to leave early. They are a very close family. His family were very comforting towards me.

On the Sunday evening at the hospital, my blood test showed that my hormone levels had increased again, so this was even more confusing and upsetting. At this point, I still thought I may be pregnant and was hoping for the absolute miracle. I was told to call again if I had any pain in my shoulders or if the bleeding got heavier and was sent on my way.

I had a very busy week ahead. We were opening a new store in work and I was the lead in the opening so I was trying my best to do what I could, but my bleeding was causing me a lot of discomfort at this point and I was also trying to keep a smile when all you want to do is cry was so hard. I was trying to keep focused for my colleagues. I couldn’t.

I was booked in for an ultrasound scan later that week to see if the baby was there. I remember being so scared. You see things on the TV that all look happy and seeing the baby on the screen, but this was so far from that. I was really scared. I knew deep down it was bad news but I remained hopeful that my baby would suddenly be ok. The sonographer I had was to put it bluntly, very rude. It didn’t seem to bother her that I was potentially going to have some very bad news; there was no emotion, compassion, nothing at all. After what felt like an age. she finally advised she couldn’t see a baby in the womb but she could see a clot in my left Fallopian tube and it was not a viable pregnancy and that it was ectopic.

I was then asked to go and sit in the consultant’s room. The consultant gave me two bits of what I can only describe as poorly photocopied scrap paper with no real information on and said I needed to decide whether to have keyhole surgery or have methotrexate to resolve the pregnancy (injection that medically manages ectopic pregnancy). This was the most horrendous few minutes of my life. Whilst my husband and I were trying to decide what was best for me, the two women in the room were laughing and joking about their day. I felt like I wanted to scream.

We decided to have the methotrexate injections instead of opting for surgery. I had never had surgery in my life before and I was terrified.  I thought this would be the ‘easiest option’. That afternoon, I had the methotrexate injections in both my thighs. This was the most excruciating  pain I had ever felt at this point. I couldn’t walk very much after and my stomach pain was increasing. As the nurse advised me it would get worse before it got better I just assumed this was normal.

On the evening of Sunday, I was in such intense pain I was screaming when going to the toilet. I didn’t know what to do. I remember my husband asking me on a scale of 1 to 10 what is your pain and I said I think 10. He called the EPU straight away and they advised to take me to A&E.

The car journey to A&E felt like a lifetime. I could barely walk at this point as I was crumpled in pain. The lady at the desk at A&E was great and she took me through to another section of the hospital to be away from all the waiting room staring at me. I saw a doctor immediately.

I was rushed up to EPU and saw a consultant. She examined me and advised I needed emergency surgery straight away in order to save my life, my ectopic pregnancy had ruptured and I was bleeding heavily internally and couldn’t be sure how long this had been bleeding for. They said they needed to act right away. I didn’t really know what to do or say, I was in so much pain and was terrified. I kept saying “why me?” I was so upset and very scared. Was I about to die?

The next thing I know is I signed a form and I was on a bed being take to theatre. I remember saying to James if I don’t make it I love you, I’m sorry and look after Stan (our dog). I was so scared and it suddenly dawned on me that that could be the last time I saw him. I had to have a laparotomy and lost my left Fallopian tube.

The next few days in hospital were the worst ever. I had not only lost our baby but had the most invasive surgery (basically a c-section but not with a baby at the end) just ruined me. I had never had surgery before, never been in a hospital for myself, and just felt so alone. I was a fit, healthy and a young (ish!) woman.  I couldn’t even move, let alone walk. I couldn’t even move to sit up. I felt lost, angry and very sad.

I had some other minor issues after the surgery which meant I had to stay in for nearly a week. The hospital left a lot to be desired, but I felt safe in there as I didn’t know what to expect when I knew I had to leave, I would be on my own. I was scared to say the least. The worst thing was we were in the middle of moving house at the time. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t help at all. I couldn’t pack or unpack or anything. I’m such a hands-on person and this frustrated me so much.

Throughout the whole experience, my husband was the strongest most wonderful man. I felt so sad that I couldn’t carry his baby and that I was now depending on him to get better. But he didn’t moan, he just looked after me. Despite this he is also a very practical person and needed to move on very quickly, but I felt I couldn’t.

I had lost a huge part of me. I had lost one of my Fallopian tubes and of course our baby. Despite being very lucky that I was alive, I suffered with PTS (post traumatic stress), my body had dramatically changed, and I couldn’t look in the mirror for a long time. I needed counselling. I simply didn’t know where to turn.

After my operation, I didn’t have any guidance or wasn’t provided with any information on what to do next, I needed someone to talk to, some friends or just someone to listen. I was just sent away from the hospital with my pain relief and that was it.

If anyone knows me I am a Google geek, I’m always like ‘oh wait I’ll Google it’…and through Google I found a fantastic site that helped me through some of my darkest days. I spent a lot of time on the ectopic.org.uk website (this website!). They have a fantastic forum and the volunteers on the site made me feel very comfortable. They listened. They offered support and were the most fantastic sounding board. I cannot thank the ladies enough. The best thing about the site was everyone participating has suffered in the same way through ectopic pregnancy, some with worse experiences, so they understood what I was going through. I hadn’t just lost a baby, I had lost a part of me and having a constant reminder on your body in the shape of a five inch scar where the baby should have come out of is difficult.

My original due date was a tough day (April 17th). You’re always thinking why isn’t she/he here? But I got through it. Still to this day when I look at my scar, I have very mixed feelings, lucky to be alive and a reminder of what I had been through. I often can’t touch it and rarely look at it.

What I have learned.

There is not enough awareness of ectopic pregnancies. If I had been diagnosed sooner I may have not lost a Fallopian tube, which meant my fertility might have been preserved for the future and may have not needed such invasive surgery, which I have reminders of every day.

There is definitely not enough support afterwards or easily available advice.

Having an ectopic pregnancy was a hugely overwhelming experience. It’s not just the physical demands; I have never felt so much emotion of grief, anxiety, being so fearful of everything and everyone being so confused all in one go.

To this day, I have never heard back from my given midwife.

It is ok to grieve. I still grieve, not only about the loss of the baby but the loss of how my body changed so dramatically and how deep my PTS went. People will avoid you as they don’t know what to say. I get that.

What I understand is that it was and still ok to avoid people that were/are pregnant. I still find this difficult to this day, not that I am not happy for those people, it just takes me a while to come around.

I now suffer quite bad ovulation pains and my scar tissue gives me jip all the time but it reminds me that I’m alive, so for that I am grateful.

I’m very open about my situation and comfortable talking about it if I need to.

Each day a year on, I remember how lucky I am to be alive and am eternally grateful for all the love and support I have had from family, the friends that were there for me, my counsellor and some complete strangers.

James and I will hopefully be able to have a family one day, I can’t say I am not scared in the slightest, I’m so scared but now I am positive to feel able to move on.

The only way is forward now. I must remember each day to be kind to myself (wonderful advice from my counsellor) and James and I are together stronger.

My second ectopic pregnancy

November 2018

Yes, that’s right, I have unfortunately suffered a second ectopic pregnancy.

In the space of three years, we have encountered two ectopic pregnancies and a miscarriage.

We had undergone our first IVF treatment following on from our two losses and we were over the moon to have 5 eggs collected. One of our little embryos lasted to day 5 blastocyst and we had it transferred.

Unfortunately, whilst we were on holiday in Poland, I started to bleed very heavily, I knew this time that something wasn’t right, I just thought that I was having a miscarriage, never in a million years did I think it would be another ectopic. Could I really be that unlucky?

As soon as we returned from our trip, I visited the hospital and to my absolute shock I was told that it was another ectopic pregnancy. I didn’t deal with it very well, I was so angry. How could this happen to me again? Why me?

I was in hysterics. I wasn’t able to be rational at the time. I just wanted to have my baby and go home.

I was referred to the ward and, after about six hours of waiting, I was on my way again to theatre. My husband had just made it back in time (he was four hours away on a work course) and the last thing I remember saying was to take my Fallopian tube, I can’t go through this if it happens again.

I did lose my remaining Fallopian tube. I recovered from surgery much faster than the first operation but mentally this one took me a little longer to come to terms with. The support I received from The EPT following my first ectopic was and still is some of the best support I have ever had.  Just the information, the support, the forums everything was invaluable. I felt safe.

Yes, I lost my chances of being able to conceive naturally from my two ectopic pregnancies. However following a second round of IVF, I am very fortunate to have identical twin girls from our one and only egg that was transferred (it split!).

Whilst ectopic pregnancies can be scary, dangerous, and mentally exhausting, I am extremely grateful for The EPT and what they do. I now offer my time to give back to the amazing charity.

Thank you to Helen 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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