Ectopic Pregnancy...it can be fatal - Know the facts
Many people know very little about ectopic pregnancy. When I had mine I had heard the word but didn't really know anything about it and definitely didn't know how dangerous and even fatal they can be. In my opinion, all women of child-bearing age (especially the one's that are trying to get pregnant) should be familiar with ectopic pregnancy and be aware of the warning signs. If you find this to be informative, I hope that you will forward this to other women, knowing the facts can help you to prevent a fatal outcome from ac ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy is one in which the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. The vast majority (I have read that it is approximately 95%) implant in the fallopian tubes, however they can be in the ovary, abdomen or cervix. Since none of these areas are adequate for the growth of a fetus it will eventually rupture (if not previously treated), as a result of becoming to large for the space. This can cause harm or even death. Note, an ectopic will never produce a full-term pregnancy.
My story: The only way to show you the importance of knowing as much as you can about ectopics is by telling you my story. You will see that I was seen / spoke with multiple doctors and still ended up passing out from internal bleeding / shock and ultimately having emergency surgery. If my husband was not home that afternoon, I would most likely not be here now.
In October 2008, I was at work one day and started to feel very dizzy. I thought it was a stomach virus, but there was no way I could drive so I called my husband to pick me up. He brought me home and I went to bed while he took our son (then 3) out to visit grandpa so that I could get some rest (thinking I was coming down with a stomach bug). While they were out, I got up to use the bathroom, I must have passed out because when I came around I was on the floor (I didn't know how long I was out, but the last thing I remembered was getting up and then I was on the floor). I went back to bed, called my husband and he came home.
I decided to go to the emergency room. At this point I wasn't really in too much pain, and had no idea that I would be pregnant (I was not late for my period yet). We went to the emergency room and I explained how I was feeling. They did a pregnancy test, informed me that I was pregnant, said the fainting was likely a result of being dehydrated and put me on an IV for fluids. Based on my last period we determined that I was not even four weeks so they sent me home with instructions to call my doctor (or come back) if I started feeling really bad or passed out again.
I continued to feel bad, but within a day or so I was feeling ok again. I went to work all week without anymore issues with dizziness. I still didn't feel good, but all my symptoms could be explained by early pregnancy. By the middle / end of the following week I was still feeling ok, though I had some pressure in my lower abdomen (it just sort of felt like I was constipated) so I called my doctor and they said I could take colace, again this is a normal pregnancy symptom so nobody was concerned.
On Saturday I started spotting. Once again I called my doctor - who asked about my history with ectopic / mis-carriage to which I responded that I hadn't previously experienced either. He asked me about my last period and some other history (just to be sure that my records were accurate and up to date) and concluded that it was most likely implantation bleeding (common in early pregnancy) and that I could hold off until Monday at which point they would do blood work to ensure everything was fine. At the point I would have only been 4 weeks so it was too early to see anything on an ultrasound.
On Sunday afternoon, I felt dizzy again. I asked my husband to walk with me into the other room and I passed out. We lived across the street from the hospital so he quickly woke up our son from his nap, threw him in the car, grabbed me and threw me in the car. I was in and out of consciousness multiple times on the way to the car, but I was ok in the car and talked to our little guy a bit to try to calm him down. When I got to the hospital they did an ultrasound to find that I had an ectopic pregnancy that had ruptured and there was a great deal of internal bleeding (causing the dizziness and passing out - my body was going into shock). They rushed me into surgery and removed my fallopian tube.
If I had known more about ectopic pregnancy's I would have known that even symptoms that seem to resemble a normal pregnancy may not be "normal" and may have prevented this or caught it before it got so bad.
Signs and Symptoms Unfortunately, as I noted above the signs and symptoms can mirror normal pregnancy and as such, it can be very hard to diagnose an exctopic pregnancy but if anything seems abnormal to you, see your doctor immediately.
1.) Missed period
2.) Breast tenderness
5.) frequent urination
As you can see these are all signs of early pregnancy and could be easily be determined to be "normal".
Eventually these common symptoms can lead to some more less common pregnancy symptoms such as:
1.) Spotting / bleeding
2.) Pelvic Pain
3.) You may also experience abdominal pain and shoulder / neck pain in extreme cases (once rupture has occurred)
Also look for:
1.) dizziness / fainting (caused by loss of blood)
2.) low blood pressure (also caused by loss of blood)
3.) lower back pain
Keep in mind that almost 20% of ectopics are not diagnosed until rupture / your body shows symptoms of going into shock.
How will your doctor determine if you have an ectopic:
This is the difficult part because unless you have previously had an ectopic or are having severe symptoms, your doctor will not usually take measures to rule out an ectopic. Here are the steps that they will take if you are suspected of having an ectopic.
1.) A urine sample / pregnancy test
2.) Blood work, to measure you hCG hormone levels (these hormones are produced by the placenta and can be detected at about 8-10 days after conception. If your results are lower than normal, based on how far along you think you are, this could be a sign of ectopic (or miscarriage). From here the will either:
a.) Request that you have the blood work done in a couple of days to ensure that you levels are appropriately increasing
b.) Do an internal ultrasound
3.) If the do the ultrasound they will be looking for the placement of the egg. Unfortunately, most ultrasounds will not see anything until 5 or so and as such you could have an ectopic and not know it.
In my case we thought that I was under 4 weeks pregnant and as such both the emergency room (on my first visit) and even my doctor said that nothing would be detectable that early. After surgery my doctor's said that they believe I was closer to two months (based on the size and the rupture) and that what I thought was my last period may have been implantation bleeding (since I was absolutely positive of the date of my period, or at least what I thought was my period).
How is an ectopic treated:
1.) If it is very early they can try give you Methonextae. This is used to stop the growth of the embryo.
2.) If you are further along they will do Laparoscopy surgery. They will make small incisions, send a camera in which will allow them to see where the ectopic is and what may have been damaged by the misplaced pregnancy. They will remove the ectopic and repair or remove any internal damages caused by the ectopic.
3.) Depending on the condition of the patient they may have to do surgery which includes larger incisions as well. Once they have removed the ectopic in one of the ways above they will monitor your hCG levels until they are back to normal, meaning the ectopic has been completely removed.
Please share this information with other women. Though it only occurs in about 2% of pregnancy's everyone should really know what to look for. Though my story had a happy ending and was able to get pregnant again a few short months after having the ectopic and now have an amazing three month old, not every story had that same ending.