I am not an expert, but this is my unique story of heartbreak, resentment, and finally, pregnancy bliss! My story is more than just a unique set of circumstances. It is a story of relentless faith that allowed me to become the mother I always dreamed of being!
In this article, I will begin by sharing my personal journey from an ectopic pregnancy to a successful pregnancy. Then I will answer various tubal-pregnancy-related FAQs from a more technical point of view. I hope this article will help answer your questions and ease your concerns regarding this difficult experience.
My Personal Experience With Ectopic Pregnancy
I married my high school sweetheart when I was 19 years old. So, at 22 and 24, we were ready to add to our family. Much to our delight, it only took a couple of months to become pregnant. In August 2002, we were ready to announce to our friends and family that we were expecting our first child.
I called the doctor, told my friends, and just relished in the fact that I was going to be a mommy. My first doctor's appointment was in September, and the days seemed to drag by. A few days before my first appointment, I woke up to find that I was spotting. A quick call to the OB/GYN reassured me this was normal. The nurse said to take it easy and call if the bleeding increased. Well, 10 hours later, I was in the emergency room.
After a few hours and endless tests, the doctors informed my husband and I that I had experienced a "little miscarriage." My uterus was empty, and there were signs that I had passed the fetus. Most likely I would not need a D&C (dilation and curettage). They reassured me that everything was going to be okay. They told me to keep my doctor's appointment and that I could start trying again in one month.
Although I was devastated, I was hopeful that my next pregnancy would be flawless. I visited my OB/GYN, who comforted me and echoed the advice of his coworker who had cared for me in the ER. My ultrasound was clear, but the doctor ordered follow-up hCG levels. It looked like I had a large ovarian cyst.
Not Feeling Well After Miscarriage
I woke up four days later feeling very ill and had a cramp in my lower abdomen. During the "miscarriage," I lost a great deal of blood vaginally (and I would soon discover I was bleeding internally as well). I thought that the fact that I was feeling ill was due to everything I had been through in the last 10 days, but two hours after waking up, I received a startling phone call from my OB/GYN.
The doctor had just seen my latest hCG levels and was alarmed. Instead of continuing to decrease, the numbers had increased, but not enough to convince my doctor that I was still pregnant. Instead, he told me he suspected I had an ectopic pregnancy.
The next few hours are a whirlwind that I don't remember well. I was rushed to the hospital, where I conferred with my doctor and was told that he might have to remove my fallopian tube. The doctor went on to inform me that the removal of my fallopian tube, a salpingectomy, would result in a 30% chance that I would never conceive. I was devastated but had no time to argue. My life was on the line.
My husband had gone four-wheeling, and no one could reach him—so I went into surgery with my mother by my side and a million unanswered questions. When I awoke from surgery, my first question was whether the doctors had removed my tube. To my horror, I was told that my tube had been destroyed by the ectopic pregnancy. I also had a great deal of internal bleeding. It would be a long journey of healing ahead.
Mourning My Loss
The days following my miscarriage were dark. I was dealing with so much, and I was only 22 years old. Still, several appointments and tests led the doctors to believe I would conceive again. Unfortunately, it could not happen soon enough for me. Every month, I would hold my breath while I took a pregnancy test. But I was always disappointed when the test came up negative. Obsession sank in, and I started driving myself crazy!
In August of 2003, my husband and I decided to stop trying to have a baby. We realized the pressure of conceiving was affecting our relationship. We also knew we still had plenty of time to conceive in the future. To make sure I would not get pregnant until we were ready, I made an appointment with my OB/GYN to get birth control.
On the phone with the doctor's office, the nurse asked if there was any chance I was pregnant. I laughed at the inquiry and said "no," but two days before the appointment, I started to get a familiar feeling. I was positive I was pregnant but convinced myself it was in my head.
Against my better judgment, I went to the store and bought a pregnancy test. To my complete disbelief, the test was immediately positive. I was so shocked that I didn't tell anyone for a few hours. Finally, I told my husband who was shocked as well.
Factors Affecting Fertility After Ectopic Pregnancy
Because my fallopian tube had to be removed, my obstetrician was very honest with me about my fertility. He told me the chances of having another baby after an ectopic pregnancy depend on the following:
- Mother's age
- Whether the mother has other children
- Why the ectopic pregnancy occurred
Anxiously Awaiting Confirmation
I wanted to jump for joy and tell everyone I knew that we were finally pregnant again, but our previous experience prevented us from being happy until we knew it was a reality.
Our family doctor agreed to do the hCG blood test for us. The numbers came back positive, but the real test was to see if they would double in 48 hours.
When the numbers doubled, my husband and I were relieved. My OB/GYN wanted to see us right away instead of waiting for the traditional appointment at 8 to 10 weeks. My first ultrasound of my daughter was at five weeks and three days, and to my resounding joy, her heart was beating.
The Complicated Pregnancy
My baby girl had an expected due date of July 4, 2004. My husband was ecstatic and so was the rest of my family. As for myself? I was terrified. I thought that all my reservations about pregnancy would be over, but my fears only increased.
Every visit to the doctor's office led to more problems. I had horrible morning sickness, gestational diabetes, and then spotting at 21 weeks. My worst fear was that I was going to lose the baby, which would have destroyed me. I wouldn't even let myself imagine life with her because I was so afraid it was never going to happen.
At the beginning of June 2004, I developed toxemia and was on constant pins and needles. My due date, which had been moved from July 4th to June 29th, looked like it was going to be even sooner.
My doctor was concerned that the baby might be too big for me to deliver and wanted to schedule a C-section. I didn't want this, but I agreed that I would consent if absolutely necessary. On June 14, 2004, the doctor decided it was more dangerous for me to stay pregnant than for me to deliver. I was scheduled for induction on June 19, 2004, and put on complete bed rest for the next five days.
Welcome to the World, Baby Erica!
On June 15, 2004, I woke up uncomfortable. I tried sitting up, lying on my side, and standing up, but nothing helped. I called my mom, who came over immediately. I decided not to bother my husband at work just because I was uncomfortable.
My mom arrived and informed me that I was in labor. I didn't believe her. I had gone to birthing classes, so I was convinced my tight belly and crampy abdomen were not labor signs. I called the doctor, and the nurse blew me off. My mother—who had four children, including triplets—insisted we go to labor and delivery because the hospital was 45 minutes away.
Shortly after arriving at the hospital, I found out I was indeed in labor. I was amazed because I felt fine, just a tad uncomfortable. When the doctor informed us that I was four centimeters dilated, I knew I had to call my husband. My husband arrived at 1 pm, and the doctors told us to prepare for a long night of waiting. We told everyone to wait until the next day to come because I was going to be there awhile.
Even as I was in labor, I was still doubting the fact that I was going to be a mother. My anxiety and fears would not let me enjoy the moments right before I gave birth. And yet, contrary to what everyone believed, and without the epidural the nurse insisted I have, my daughter was born at 7:17 pm on June 15, 2004.
I held my breath while she was examined. When the nurses didn't move as quick as I thought they should, I began shouting at them. Finally, I had confirmation. My seven-pound-eleven-ounce baby girl was completely healthy. When they handed her to me, I cried. All the fear and anxiety that I had carried around for the last two years was finally gone. I was a mommy!
Pregnancy After Ectopic Is Possible
I don't often share my story because it is painful, but I want other people to know that having a baby after an ectopic pregnancy is absolutely possible! Having faith and believing it would happen is the only way I survived my emotional ordeal. If I had given up, I probably would never have become a mother.
Now that you've heard my story, I'd like to share some more information about tubal pregnancies in general. Below you will find the answers to many frequently asked questions about ectopic pregnancies and the possibility of successful pregnancies thereafter.
What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?
There are three main symptoms associated with this type of pregnancy, though only about 50% of women experience all three. Unfortunately, some women don't experience any symptoms until the structure containing the ectopic pregnancy (i.e., fallopian tube, ovary, or abdomen) ruptures, at which point immediate medical attention is critical.
Sharp pains in the abdomen, pelvis, shoulder, or neck (especially severe pain that occurs on one side of the abdomen)
Absence of menstrual period
Vaginal bleeding or spotting
Dizziness, fainting, and rectal pressure are also common symptoms of tubal pregnancy.
How is an ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
Blood hormone tests and pelvic ultrasounds are the most common ways to diagnose this type of pregnancy. A D&C (dilation and curettage) is another evaluation option.
What is a D&C?
A D&C, or dilation and curettage, is a procedure for removing tissue from the uterus. During a D&C, the cervix is dilated using small instruments or a medication. Then, a curette is used to remove uterine tissues (via either scraping or suction). D&Cs can be used to diagnose and treat various uterine conditions from polyps to molar pregnancies. Though they can’t treat ectopic pregnancies, they are sometimes used to diagnose them. If the procedure confirms the presence of early pregnancy tissue, it is very likely not to be an ectopic pregnancy. If, on the other hand, no pregnancy tissue is present, treatment for an ectopic pregnancy will likely be recommended.
Are D&Cs dangerous?
Rarely. D&Cs are usually very safe, but as with any medical procedure, there are risks. These include:
- Perforation of the uterus or nearby organs
- Allergic reactions to medications and anesthesia
- Infection of the cervix or uterus (potentially requiring medication or another procedure)
- Blood transfusion or additional surgery to control procedure-related bleeding
Could my ectopic pregnancy result in a successful delivery?
No. The odds of bringing an ectopic pregnancy to term are roughly one in three million. These exceedingly rare cases usually result from the egg implanting somewhere in the abdomen rather than in the fallopian tubes. Abdominal pregnancies have a much higher mortality rate for both the mother and fetus.
Can you get pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy?
Yes. As long as your ectopic pregnancy was treated without removing both fallopian tubes. But it will be an inherently high-risk pregnancy and will need to be monitored closely.
If the ectopic pregnancy is treated without removing the fallopian tubes, or if one tube is removed (salpingectomy) but the other one is in good condition, a woman can have a successful pregnancy in the future.
However, a woman who has had an ectopic pregnancy is at higher risk of having another one. It is therefore crucial that women trying to conceive again speak to their gynecologists about the risk of having another ectopic pregnancy and possible measures for early evaluation of their next pregnancy.
Other risk factors that may affect your ability to get pregnant after an ectopic include pelvic inflammatory disease (usually caused by an untreated sexually transmitted disease like Chlamydia or Gonorrhea), infertility treatment, smoking, DES exposure, tubal surgery, and endometriosis.
What are the chances of conceiving after an ectopic pregnancy?
It depends on the health of your fallopian tubes. If you have at least one healthy fallopian tube, your chances of having a successful pregnancy in the future are very good. The majority of women (about 65%) are pregnant within 18 months of an ectopic pregnancy, with the figure rising above 80% over two years.
How long should you wait to try to conceive after an ectopic pregnancy?
Three months or two menstrual cycles (whichever comes first). Be aware that the bleeding experienced in the first week of treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is not your first period, but a response to hormone changes resulting from the lost pregnancy.
Though that’s the time your body needs to heal, take care to consider your emotional health as well. While some women might feel desperate to conceive again as soon as possible after an ectopic pregnancy, others may need more time to recover, both physically and emotionally. Life after an ectopic pregnancy is different for everyone, and there is no “right time” to try to conceive again.
Can an ectopic pregnancy be transferred to the uterus?
No. There are only three treatment options for ectopic pregnancies, and none of them involve transferring or attempting to save the embryo.
What are the treatment options for an ectopic pregnancy?
Surgery or medication. Treating this type of pregnancy as soon as possible is crucial to the mother’s safety. When diagnosed and treated early enough, it is usually possible to save the fallopian tube involved. Below are the three treatment methods.
Course of Methotrexate (MTX). MTX is a chemotherapeutic agent that slows the growth of rapidly dividing cells (pregnancy tissue does exactly this). This treatment can be administered as a single shot or as a series of injections. If a tubal pregnancy continues after two to three doses of methotrexate, surgical treatment is required.
Laparoscopic surgery (a.k.a. keyhole surgery). This involves the insertion of a laparoscope through the belly button and into the abdomen. This type of surgery is generally uncomplicated and allows for the normal healing of the fallopian tube, meaning that the involved tube may have the chance to facilitate a successful pregnancy in the future.
- Emergency surgery. If you experience heavy bleeding resulting from a tubal pregnancy, you may need emergency surgery via laparotomy. While there is sometimes a possibility that the fallopian tube can be repaired, if it has been ruptured, it must be removed (salpingectomy).
Laparotomy vs. Laparoscopy
Though they sound quite similar, these two surgical approaches to tube removal are quite different.
Used when patient is unstable and there is evidence of a ruptured fallopian tube
Used when patient is stable and there is no evidence of a ruptured fallopian tube
Surgery through large incision in lower abdomen
Insertion of small camera through a small incision, with surgery through two or three additional incisions
More postoperative pain
Less postoperative pain
Longer hospital stay
Shorter hospital stay
- D&C for Evaluation of Ectopic Pregnancy
- Advanced abdominal pregnancy: an increasingly challenging clinical concern for obstetricians
- Can an Ectopic Pregnancy Be Saved?
- Surgical Removal of Ovaries & Tubes
- Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment | Saving a Tubal Pregnancy
- Ectopic pregnancy - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic
- Top 3 Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms
- Trying to conceive after an ectopic pregnancy: The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust
Dr. Tami Prince
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Tawnya