Tommy's guest blog, 13/10/2016, by Natasha Brown
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilised egg attaches itself somewhere outside of the womb and begins to grow.
Not only does this end in the inevitable heartbreak of miscarriage, it can also be potentially dangerous for the mother as well.
Around 1 in 90 pregnancies in the UK are ectopic
Natasha Brown was told that she was having a strong pregnancy and there would be no need to scan her after she reported experiencing stomach cramps to her doctor.
The fact that she has Irritable Bowel Syndrome led her doctor to believe that this was the cause of her discomfort as opposed to any issue with her pregnancy.
Natasha left hospital feeling excited about her pregnancy but a week later she was woken in the night by intense stomach pains.
‘I remember the day the ambulance crew arrived clearly but before then it is in snippets. I remember being woken by belly pain and thinking it was my IBS flaring up again. When I stood the pain got worse. I struggled for breath, it felt like a pressure was being pushed over me and I went really hot.’
Natasha lay on the floor in an attempt to cool down and was found by her four year old son James who asked her what she was doing.
‘I remember seeing his little feet as he was sat on the stairs next to me. I’m not sure how long I was there before deciding the best thing to do was go back upstairs to be in the bathroom.’
After telling her husband to call an ambulance Natasha moved to the landing floor to wait.
‘I started to feel cold and Ben got me a blanket and pillow. I don’t remember much in between as I spent my time focusing on one point of every wall I was lying near to stop me from screaming with pain. I remember only yelling out once and that was when I moved from the bottom of the stairs to go back to the top but it scared James and I wasn’t going to scare him anymore than necessary.’
The ambulance crew arrived and suggested Natasha may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. She told them that it couldn’t be as she’d been in A&E six days previously where she was told everything was ok.
‘Once at the hospital I was met by the ectopic team who were waiting for me. They starting scanning me and confirmed there was a foetus (my baby). The scanning went up my ribs and I remember thinking “this can’t be ectopic as they wouldn’t be scanning my ribs if it was.” By this point I knew it wouldn’t be my IBS.’
After being scanned twice Natasha started to realise something was really wrong as a nurse was preparing to put her on a blood supply.
She was told that her pregnancy was ectopic and had ruptured, causing internal bleeding.
Natasha was taken into surgery and scanned.
‘I was then asked if I wanted to see my baby on the screen. I turned and there my baby was a live, kicking and waving. I remember saying to Ben “did you see our baby?” and in my head I was like why are you sounding so excited? This is the only time I would see my baby and when I came round from surgery my baby would no longer be there. I didn’t focus on this too much, I felt like I wanted to cry but couldn’t and I just thanked everyone who was helping me, everyone.’
Natasha’s surgeon came to see her when she was back on the ward to tell her how serious her ectopic pregnancy had been.
‘The surgeon said to me, “I need you to understand how lucky you are. If it had been half an hour later we would have been telling your family something different, well done for saying to call an ambulance when you did. You lost half your body volume in blood. Unfortunately we couldn’t save your right Fallopian tube. I have looked at your notes from the 1st May and I don’t know why you were told your bloods were strong, they weren’t. I don’t know why you weren’t scanned but you should have been. You are classed as high risk to have ectopic pregnancies due to your endometriosis and the fact you have had key hole surgery on your stomach twice. I can only apologise that you weren’t scanned and that I cannot give you answers. I’m sorry for your loss.” I took from that conversation the word lucky and played around with it in my head. I tried to think of a word he could have used instead. But, for the fact I am alive and able to carry on being a mummy to James, I am lucky.’
For Natasha, the fact that her early concerns were dismissed is something that has stayed with her since losing her baby.
‘The part that haunts me is my first visit to A&E where I was sent away. If they had spared me five minutes for a scan I would have avoided the trauma that hasn’t just affected me, it has Ben, James and the rest of my family. I may have avoided surgery. I may still have both Fallopian tubes. Yes, I would still need to grieve for a lost child, but there wouldn’t be everything else that is running through my head.’
Recovering from the loss of a baby is hard, particularly after suffering such a traumatic experience. It is important to give yourself time to process what happened and begin the healing process.
Natasha holds on to the positive aspects of her experience such as the high quality of care and attention she was given by the health professionals who attended to her.
‘At night I switch my light off thinking about the great team of people I had looking after me that day. The Ambulance crew, the team of doctors and nurses who met us at A&E, the team in the operating room, the nurses, health care assistances who looked after me on the ward. I am so grateful and owe them so much; each and every one of them is amazing. I hang on to that fact a lot as, out of all the emotions I feel about the whole thing, I don’t want to hang onto anger.’
It is important that after a traumatic experience such as ectopic pregnancy you allow yourself time to recover. If you need to seek help at any point you should not be afraid or ashamed to do so.
Sometimes talking about what happened and expressing how you feel can help. Our midwives are available on our free pregnancy line from 9 – 5, Monday – Friday to listen, support and help you in any way they can 0800 0147 800.
If you are finding it hard to cope following loss then see our advice pages on managing after a miscarriage here.