Sunday, September 26, 2010

Two Years Later PSA

This is a post that I do every year, because it is something that is, for obvious reasons, very important to me to educate and inform people about.  Since posting about my experience with an ectopic pregnancy and talking about it, I have had two women who told me that knowing the symptoms was what got them to the hospital in time.  Please read it.  Please tell other women about it.


First and foremost, I'm glad I'm not dead.

Seriously. I'm really, really glad I'm not dead. That would have sucked. And, thanks to the fact that I recognized warning symptoms and had some emergency surgery two years ago today, I get to be alive to appreciate being alive. I'm a big fan.

So in honor of my not-dying anniversary, I'm doing a PSA about ectopic pregnancy. Even if you never plan on having children, these are important symptoms to know because you could very well save the life of someone you love. Or your own. (Unless you are a guy, in which case your risk of ectopic pregnancy = non-existent. Still, you like women, right?)

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy in which a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. This is a bad thing. Usually the egg implants in the fallopian tube; occasionally it implants other places. 2% of all pregnancies are ectopic. That's 1 in 50. Certain factors increase your risks--tubal scarring, abdominal surgery, endometriosis, fertility treatments, IUDs--but it can happen to anyone.

An even scarier statistic than the one-in-fifty? Ectopic pregnancies are the number one cause of pregnancy-related death. Part of the problem is that many women with ectopic pregnancies don't even know they're pregnant. Because your body doesn't produce as many hormones, you might continue having periods like normal, ignore the sudden pain, go to bed because you're feeling tired and dizzy, and never wake up.

I know that sounds terrible and scary. It is. It happens. So even if you don't think you're pregnant, or if you think you are just having a standard miscarriage (which was what I thought), always, ALWAYS call the doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Sharp pain on one side of your lower abdomen. When you press down on it, it will be a stabbing pain that you will feel reflected in the other side, but one side will be more tender. Once your tube actually bursts the pain will lessen considerably--DO NOT IGNORE THAT. All it means is that you are now bleeding internally.
  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded when you aren't lying down. This would be because of the internal bleeding. Also, difficulty and discomfort breathing.
  • And finally, the key symptom: when you lie down, you have a sharp, stabbing pain in your shoulder. This is called referred pain, and is caused by the blood filling up your abdomen and pushing on your lungs. (This is also a symptom of a burst appendix and often happens after abdominal surgery, in case you were interested.) If you EVER have abdominal pain that is reflected in your shoulder when you lie down, go to the hospital immediately. And have someone else drive you.
Like I said, you may not think you are pregnant, but if there is any chance whatsoever you could be and you have these symptoms, have someone drive you to the hospital immediately or call 911. If I had ignored my symptoms and let my husband go to work that day,I probably would have fallen asleep on the couch and never woken up again. I was in surgery within two or three hours of the pain starting, and at that point I had lost so much blood I nearly needed a transfusion.

But, because I am obsessive and had researched every pregnancy-related topic under the sun, I knew something was wrong. And I'm not dead. And that's a good thing.

Here's hoping you never have to recognize the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. But now you can, and that's the important thing.

Happy Being Alive Day!

26 comments:

seaheidi said...

Thanks for posting this, Kiersten. Such an important thing to know about. My cousin's wife almost died from one a few years back too. So scary.

Wannabe Writer said...

Thank you for sharing! I know a number of people trying to get pregnant right now. I'll be sure to talk to them about this. Education is a powerful weapon.

Patty Blount said...

Kiersten,

You're always such a bubbly upbeat person so it's so hard to imagine you going through something so utterly terrifying and life-threatening. I am so very sorry for what you endured and what you lost.

Thank you for posting this.

Annette Lyon said...

I knew some of these symptoms, but not all (like the referred pain).

Congratulations on your 2-year non-deadness. REALLY!

Sandy Shin said...

Thank you for sharing this post with us. This is such an important thing everybody should know about.

Piedmont Writer said...

Thank you for being brave enough to post this. You may think this is just a PSA but you might save someone's life.

Stephanie Perkins said...

I am so, so, SO freaking thankful that you are obsessive and researched every pregnancy-related topic under the sun.

♥ ♥ ♥

Remilda Graystone said...

I'd heard about ectopic pregnancies, and did a little bit of research, but didn't know this much about it. I certainly didn't know it could KILL YOU. Whoa. Scary. I'm so glad you're fine and can inform others about this.

Thanks for the PSA.

Brodi Ashton said...

Thanks for the post. I had no idea it was so common, or so serious!

Wen Baragrey said...

I'm so glad you're still with us this year, Kiersten :) I can't believe it's been a whole year since the last time you posted this. I might post mine again too. And extra brilliant that you helped save two lives!

Dominique said...

Thank you so much for posting this. You're right that this information can save lives, and I think it's really great that you're helping raise awareness. It might sound strange to say it, but I'm glad you're alive.

Jen said...

Great Job! and glad you're all right! My not dead anniversary is in January. I would have died had a cyst not burst just prior so I was already on alert. Very important topic 'cause it sure seems like more than a 2% chance.

Mundie Moms said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I had no idea about these symptoms. I had a good friend go through this, but I had no idea about the risks or the symptoms from it.

I'm so glad you did so much research into this. I'm definitely sharing this link with family and friends! I'm really shocked doctors don't tell their patience more about this.

THANK YOU!

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

Yet another example why it is so important to trust your instincts. We tend to push them aside and reason away the issue. Thank goodness you didn't do that. You knew something was wrong, you didn't ignore your symptoms or endure them for too long without seeking help, And you are here to tell us about it.

Like most who have commented, I knew some, but not all, of the symptoms. This was very informative. Thank you for sharing. Hope you did something very special today to celebrate this anniversary.

Suzi McGowen said...

That is scary! I'm glad you're alive, too. Thank you for sharing.

Karin Shah said...

Thank you for posting! I also had an EP several years ago. Fortunately, I was undergoing fertility treatments and was very closely monitored, so my surgery was not done under emergency conditions.
Thanks for making people aware of this life threatening complication!

Karin Shah said...

Thank you for posting! I also had an EP several years ago. Fortunately, I was undergoing fertility treatments and was very closely monitored, so my surgery was not done under emergency conditions.
Thanks for making people aware of this life threatening complication!

Sunday Kofffon Taylor said...

Thank you for a great post. 14 years ago, on Halloween night, I too was in the ER with an ectopic pregnancy that I had mistaken for a run of the mill miscarriage. I had surgery that I was told did not go well. Both tubes were completely blocked, and I was told I would never get pregnant naturally again. About a year later I went through my first round of IVF, it was unsuccessful. I was to call on the first day of my next cycle, so I could go for another round. I never called. The nurse from the IVF clinic called to scold me for forgetting. I hadn’t forgotten, I hadn’t started. Panicked she had me rush right in for an ultra sound; sure it was another ectopic pregnancy. Miraculously, the little blip on the screen was in my uterus. 36 weeks My daughter Madeline was born, 7 years latter my second daughter Amélie was born, and 2 years after that at forty years old my third daughter CoCo was born. They say miracles happen and that time heals all wounds, I just wanted to say that sometimes it works out exactly that way.

Sara B. Larson said...

I am so glad you are okay. How terrifying and devastating to go through that and lose your baby. I know how hard that last part is. As someone who deals with endometriosis, I guess I need to make sure I'm aware of those symptoms. But I'm like you and totally obsessive and research everything, so I kinda already knew it. Good to refresh your knowledge though, just in case (heaven forbid).

Claire Dawn said...

I'm glad you're still with us.

All I know about ectopic pregnancy, I've learned from you. And while, I'm totally not at risk (unless I gestate like an elephant) I thank you for educating me. I may be able to save someone's life some day.

Ellen Brickley said...

Thanks for this, Kiersten. Noted. Seriously, seriously noted.

And happy Didn't Die Day :D Glad you're still with us.

Anita Saxena said...

When I was in undergrad and optometry school we learned about many things that could go wrong when trying to have a baby. And admittedly, I have a bit of a fear about having babies. But, not once were we taught what the signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy were or how serious an ectopic pregnancy could really be. I learned that an ectopic pregnancy was when the embryo affixed itself to somewhere else other than the fallopian tube and that it was painful. I never knew that your fallopian tube could burst and that you could internally bleed to death! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and taking the time to educate others.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

It makes me want to cry that you went through that.

Thanks for the info!

Christine said...

Thank you for this post. I have never had an ectopic pregnancy, but I will keep the symptoms in mind for my daughter and my friends. I am glad you are alive and celebrate your positivity!

JEM said...

What an incredible story, thank you for sharing this harrowing experience with us. I'm happy you're alive, too!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting about this. I think it is very important that women know about this. I just went through an ectopic pregnancy a few weeks ago and I had no idea I was pregnant because I still had my period like normal. I went to the doc. for bad abdominal pain and it was there I found out I was pregnant. Thankfully it was caught in time so I didn't have to have the surgery but it was a scary and painful experience.