Monday, 31 December 2007

E = Ectopic

I heard today that Sophie, Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex, this week gave birth to a baby boy. It seemed appropriate. I often think of Sophie in December, remembering that she had her ectopic pregnancy a few days before I found I was pregnant for the first time. Perhaps my only royal connection, I too suffered an ectopic pregnancy that year.

A year later, December 2002, I was pregnant again. But waking on Christmas Day I knew things were not quite right, and before New Year I had lost the baby. Another couple of weeks of poking and prodding, tests, scans, medical and surgical treatment, hospitalisation and suspected cancer, it was finally diagnosed as a cornual ectopic pregnancy. It took five months three surgeries five hospital stays countless blood tests and specialist appointments before I was given the all clear.

About 1 in 80 pregnancies are ectopic, which means a pregnancy outside the womb. The baby will not survive. And if left untreated, in many cases neither will the mother. Ectopics are often misdiagnosed, and every year women die as a result, even in the richest countries of the world.

About 1% of ectopic pregnancies are cornual. I was told that about 1 in 400,000 pregnancies were in the same position as mine. Suddenly I realised what it is like to be on the wrong end of the odds. When you’re the 1 in 400,000, and that is 100% of your experience, odds become meaningless.

You realise you are not infallible; things you thought would come easily do not; things which everyone assumes would be yours simply by right of existence are not.

You come face to face with your own mortality. Life seems more uncertain.

You endure invasive medical or surgical treatment, sometimes both, often on an emergency basis.

You have concerns about your future fertility – some women lose their tubes, sometimes ovaries, and cornual ectopics such as mine run the risk of losing part or your entire uterus.

Saddest of all, you lose a baby.

Pregnancy, which everyone else takes for granted, becomes something that can kill you.

So now I volunteer for a Trust that raises awareness of ectopic pregnancies, supports research into causes, treatment and prevention, and improves the diagnosis and treatment. Literally, the Trust saves lives. Just as importantly, as far as I am concerned, it saves spirits and relationships as well.

But every year at this time, I remember.


  1. That's too sad: but how loikr you to do something constructive and generous out if it. Happy New Year!
    ps: I have just looked at yr weather: it says it's 15 now. swoon! It's 40 here right now with an overnight low of 27 to come.Drip.

  2. forgive spelling: melted brain....

  3. Gosh, you wouldn't think they would be that hard to diagnose... but ditto what Mrs. S. said (except without the spelling mistake).

  4. Mrs S - Happy New Year! I was thinking of you yesterday. I almost melted the day before in 30 degs visiting wineries. I hope you have air-con. But yesterday was only about 20, and I saw Melb was to have 42 - my in-laws are there right now, and they hate the heat. I sent a text to see if they had melted - no response. Perhaps the cellphones have melted along with brains.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    Helen - you're right, they shouldn't be THAT hard to diagnose, but so many doctors just assume a woman has a miscarriage and send her away. Then only when she collapses through internal bleeding do they figure out it's an ectopic. Sometimes not even then. The Trust I work with was established when a young actress died as a resut.

  5. I used to work for a professional association for ob/gyns, during which time I learned about the millions of things that can go wrong and perhaps gave me a healthy fear of pregnancy. In fact, I began to believe that it's amazing that things go RIGHT as often as they do.

    Oh, the heartbreak of this...

  6. I think of you a lot whenever the topic comes up nowadays. It's so odd how the internet does that.

    My young aunt (she's about 12 years older) on the phone with me while sitting in a Rolla hospital ER: Bridgett, they say they want to take one of my tubes. I can't get your dad (the family medical advice line) on the phone. Could you call him?

    She'd had another ectopic already. It was a miserable evening. IB, you are so right. How does it ever work?

  7. Bridgett, I'm sorry your aunt went through two. One is bad enough, two is rotten! If she wants support (don't know how recently she had her ectopics), the Trust I volunteer for (only one of its kind) has a message board that provides support and medical advice for women all over the world, although it is UK based. I can give the address if she wants.

  8. M--it's been six years and an adopted son since...but I will certainly take the info due simply to my age and place in life right now (I know a lot of women in their 20s 30s 40s).

  9. Hi - I am across your blog while searching on cornual pregnancy. It doesn't seem like there are many folks blogging about this topic.

    I also had one that ended on 9/18/2008. I lost my tubes and they resected my uterus.

    I'm sorry for all you went through. It's great that you are volunteering for an organization to raise awareness about ectopics.



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