Parenting

Ectopic Pregnancy

A friend of mine went through the experience of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. After searching online for information and coming up yearning for support, I encouraged her to share her story for your benefit.

She wishes to remain anonymous, but if you would like to be put in touch, just email me (SageParenting@gmail.com) as she is willing to connect.

Walnut

My husband and I found out that we were expecting on December 17th, 2013. After having used up a couple of pregnancy tests before that date because I could not bare the excitement, the third stick finally validated my feeling. We were both anxious and nervous.

I tried to setup an appointment with my gynecologist to meet with her shortly after, but was told that the nurse practitioner would be available sooner. I knew her and liked her, so I agreed to have her check on everything. We had both estimated that I was at about 6 weeks. She got the ultrasound ready and the office only had the internal, which I heard was supposed to be more accurate. She saw nothing… She became very concerned and told my husband and I that there is a possibility that I was either having a threatening miscarriage or an ectopic. She told us that she had experienced both and the words that brought concern into both of our hearts’ and minds’ were the words “life threatening.” She referred me to a radiologist’s office to have another ultrasound for that same day, in addition to having my blood tested. They did both an internal and an external ultrasound at the radiologist’s office and had found nothing. Needless to say, my mix of excitement and anxiety was leaning more toward anxiety now. I tried to remain hopeful though.

I called my gynecologist’s office the following day to follow-up. They said that my blood test was clearly indicating that I was pregnant. Now the details are a little fuzzy, but I think they had said that they were a little low. I had my blood tested every two to three days thereafter for some time. I was told that my HCG levels should be doubling every 48 hours, but mine were taking about 72 hours to double. The following week I went in to see my gynecologist. The nurse practitioner had arranged for me to see her, since she would be more capable (I guess) of handling it. The doctor had conducted another ultrasound, but found nothing again. There was something on the screen that “could be” a sac, but nothing was in it. She referred me to see the same radiologist and get another blood test. It was two days before Christmas and we were hoping to share the good news with our families. The radiologist again found nothing in my uterus or my tubes.

Christmas day arrived and we met with my husband’s family and shared the news with them with all of the caveats. They were of course excited, but I was beginning to feel slightly less hopeful at this point. Sharing the news may have even caused more confusion for me as I really did want to be happy, but not sure if there was anything to be happy about. Shortly thereafter, we had also shared the news with my family and again the mix of emotions. I was feeling the nausea, fatigue, and constant waking in the night and this was the one thing that gave me hope.

I continued to have regular blood tests (that continued to slowly rise) and went in to see my doctor a couple of times due to some cramping and light bleeding. She had talked about prescribing Vicadin if in case it was actually a miscarriage. She had told me if that I bleed at the rate of water coming out of an open faucet, then I need to go to the ER. We did not discuss what I would really experience if it was in fact an ectopic pregnancy.

During my last visit with her I had told her of some shooting pains that I had. I couldn’t pin point if they were stemming from my back or my chest, but they were a big jolt of pain. I had told her that this was a rare experience for me before the pregnancy, but that they have become quite frequent since the pregnancy. I remember her looking elsewhere as I was talking, as she was multi-tasking. Again my ultrasound showed her nothing conclusive. She noted that that possible sac had grown and it looked like it had “collapsed.” The conversation to follow I will never forget… She Said she was “pretty confident” that we could “rule out an ectopic pregnancy” at this point. She decided that she did not want to bother “poking” me for blood tests anymore. She told me that my body may not yet realize that it will be getting ready for a miscarriage and that this is why my hormone levels may still be rising. She discussed the D&C procedure with me and stated that we could wait a short while before needing to go that route. She gave me the prescription for Vicadin in case I began to have a miscarriage after office hours and needed medication for the pain.

I began reading up on miscarriages and skipping over anything related to ectopic since my doctor had ruled it out. I was preparing myself for the emotional and physical pain and envisioned any which way that it could happen. Within days of my last appointment with my doctor I had started feel pains and this is the beginning of what became the most traumatizing experience I have ever had.

On January 16th, I remember leaving work and being thankful that my client had arrived 15 minutes early, which allowed me to leave from work by about 6:45 PM. I had rushed to eat my pear as I was packing up my belongings. I got in the car and was contacting another client to follow-up with them. About fifteen minutes into our conversation, which was a difficult conversation, I began to have intense pains. I was able to wrap up the conversation and get off the phone. I had told myself that I was probably feeling really bad gas pains from eating that pear too fast and that I could probably still stop by Whole Foods and use their restroom. Then the pain got worse and I told myself that there was no way in hell that I was still going to Whole Foods. I had passed my home a mile ago and decided I needed to head straight there. As I was heading home I had passed my doctor’s office, which was next to the ER. I had briefly thought that I may end up there. The mile home felt excruciatingly long. I began to have a hot flash and felt like vomiting seconds later. I had considered pulling over and I remember thinking to myself someone is going to think that I am drunk if I begin vomiting out the side of my car. I considered putting my car in park as I was stuck behind a red light, so that I could throw up. I had managed to call my husband at some point and told him to unlock the door because I was feeling so bad I did not have those few seconds to spare. I had no idea what was going on with my body, but I thanked the world that I was able to get home.

I knew there was no way that I could carry my lunch bag upstairs, since it was hard enough moving. Oh yeah… I had my pants unbuttoned during the car-ride to help with the pain and I left them unbuttoned as I walked to the gate leading upstairs to our condo unit. I felt like I was extremely drunk and sick. I was so light headed that I had difficulty walking up the stairs. I held onto the railings for dear life. I started to call my husband’s name as soon as I got up the stairs. I was barely standing up straight. My brain could not comprehend what was going on and that this was not normal. He somehow heard my faint voice after several calls and really I remember thinking why can’t I call his name louder. He helped me in and to the bathroom. I sat there in pain. I was not sure if I would be bleeding at any point, but nothing was really happening. I just had the same light spotting that I had had for days or weeks (I am not sure). I asked my husband if he heard water running. He had no clue what I was talking about. The water running then started sounding like a waterfall. It lasted for seconds and again this confused me. I had my husband Google “miscarriage and light headed.” The results indicated that the light headedness was to be expected if I were bleeding immensely, but again not much was coming out.

I told my husband to get my prescription for the Vicadin filled because I could not bare this pain any longer. He made sure I was okay before he left to the Rite-Aide down the street. He was back within 10 minutes, which gave me just enough time to finally vomit. I was still feeling wretched though. He helped me lie down on the bed, which helped a little. I was continuing to feel the light-headedness though and the pain. We waited together while my prescription was being filled. He waited with me 10 minutes past the time that was filled and I didn’t know it at the time, but I was lucky he did this. While he was gone I felt an immense need to use the bathroom. I felt like a volcano was about to erupt from my bottom. I knew there was no way I could lift myself off the bed. At this point, my brain was working enough to know to just call 911. They transferred me over to the paramedics and as I was giving my address I heard my husband’s key turn from the front door. I told them to cancel the ambulance because my husband could just bring me to the ER.

I told my husband that I had called 911 and hung up, so that he could take me to the ER and he thought I was nuts. I asked him to just help me to the bathroom so that I could let this volcano out. Oh boy did it come out. He told me that he was not going to take me to the ER himself because he would not be able to carry me safely. He called 911, while I was still hanging out in the bathroom. I was still there when the paramedics arrived. While I was waiting on my own, my husband made sure that I was holding onto the shower rail, so that I would not fall over.

My husband and one of the two paramedics helped me out of the bathroom and through our little hall. They had me lie down on the bedroom floor. My blood pressure was sixty over thirty. They stuck two IV’s in me and called backup for a gurney. I remember them throwing out the word “shock” and indicating that my body was in “shock,” but I had no idea what that meant at the time. They were not able to take me down the building’s stairs because it was too tight, so we took the small elevator and they sat me up. We waited there for a moment… the three of us squished and somehow I was the one to realize that they forgot to push the elevator button to take us to the lower floor.

As they rushed me into the ambulance I started to feel extremely cold. I began shivering intensely, which only made my pain worse. During the ride I had learned that the ER that I had passed earlier that night was actually full, so they had to drive me a couple miles further in the other direction to the next nearest ER.

My husband was already at the ER waiting for me. We both began explaining everything to the ER doctor regarding our expected miscarriage. The doctor was upset that I did not have a D&C done, but I told him that I had opted to wait and that that was not my doctor’s doing. They took my temperature and it was 94 degrees Fahrenheit. No wonder I was so cold. They put a “bear hugger” on me to lock-in the heat with about eight blankets on top of that. My husband called my mother and updated her on the situation. Before I knew it my brother and father joined.

The ER doctor was still confused with regards to what was going on. He thought that I might be having an infection from a miscarriage that rotted within my body. He immediately put me on an IV of antibiotics. I was told that I could not take any pain medication because my blood pressure was too low and the pain medication would make it even lower, which is why I am so glad my husband did not rush to get that Vicadin for me. I could have died.

The ER doctor had talked to each member of my family to try to tell them what he thought was going on to the best of his understanding. I remember having to have my father leave the room because I did not want to hear him cry. I also remember the ER doctor telling all of the staff not to pay attention to anyone else but me at this point. That was definitely alarming. I did hyperventilate at some point, but I cannot remember if it was before or after that. After some time he said that he would like to do an ultrasound to see what was going on and inform the specialist before she comes in. The ultrasound tech was not able to see anything (including my ovaries) and I later found out that this was because all that he could see were fluids.

I was told that the specialist will be coming in now and that I will need to go in for surgery. They had not allowed me to drink any fluids or chew any ice during the hours that I was there. The pain became worse at some points as it shot up to my shoulders. The only thing that was acting as a pain medication was being able to talk to my husband and seeing him keep a smile on his face to help me feel happy. We talked about potential vacations that we could take, so that I could fulfill the dream of riding an elephant. He was able to joke gently with me and playful with me. It really did work and I am so thankful that he is in my life.

It was nearly 2:00AM now on January 17th as they prepped me for surgery they transferred about four pints of blood into me and said that they had to be careful not to give me too much, since I was headed into the OR. I remember meeting the specialist and her trying to soothe me. I felt the anxiety in the room as they were waiting for the anesthesiologist. I told them not to worry and that all would be okay. What I was really thinking at the time was “oh my goodness I need to calm these people so they don’t accidentally remove my leg.”

Of course I do not remember much else until after the surgery. I was told that I did have an ectopic pregnancy that had ruptured in the middle of my tube. She did not end up having to remove the tube and left it there in case the other tube is not effective in the future. She told me that what she had found in my tube was the size of a walnut. From this point forward it had become hard for me to grieve the loss of this walnut. I was so thankful that I was alive. At times though I was bitter that I ended up with a cesarean scar without the baby that could have come through it.

There are many things that I had learned from this experience. I had learned the symptoms of internal bleeding include hot flashes, desire to vomit, diarrhea, pains that shoot up to your shoulder, low blood pressure, a whooshing sounds in your head, light-headedness, and feeling cold. I had all of these. I also learned that the pain that I was experiencing and had explained to my doctor while she was multi-tasking was in fact a symptom of ectopic pregnancy, along with the low rising hormone levels, spotting, and cramping. Apparently those pains that were shooting in my back/chest were the feeling of my tube being expanded by the embryo. I learned that I need to speak up for myself when I hear words like “pretty confident” and my life could be in danger!

I really did trust my doctor because I had thought of her as so thorough and people would give her high praises in the waiting room. I am not sure what was going on for her that last day, but it was her job to do her due diligence and she did not. She could have easily done more blood tests, referred me to the radiologist again, or perhaps have requested a CT scan more a more accurate reading.

It is now April 26th, 2014 and I am again pregnant. I am about 5 weeks and possibly a few days into my pregnancy. So far I have seen a sac with a tiny little yolk. I have yet to share the news with my family because I want to have an ultrasound to share with them for Mother’s Day.

I have of course switched doctors. I switched twice because I am following my gut more. My second doctor was my OR doctor and although she was very nice, I did not feel that she was thorough and I felt that she was giving me too much of an “everything will be okay” attitude.

It has not been easy dealing with the aftermath that such a trauma will do to you. I have had flashbacks, constant worries, and bouts of tearfulness. My body also had to recover from having such an intensive surgery and losing so much blood. It has been very helpful though to share my story to family and friends that are able to hear it and to share it here with you.

I have shared this story because when I was looking for comfort in hearing other people’s stories there was little information on women that had experienced a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. It is a rare occurrence, but I feel that if I were better prepared by my doctor with what symptoms to expect we could have addressed it before it had ruptured. I want to empower other women to ask questions and follow their gut.

 

More on ectopic pregnancies:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ectopic-pregnancy/basics/definition/con-20024262

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3389893/