Sunday, September 25, 2011

Three 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 three 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. I had no real risk factors.

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.

47 comments:

Kimberly Sabatini said...

Kiersten, I had no idea. Thanks for the PSA and so freaking glad you're still alive. The world totally doesn't need another zombie. (((hugs)))

Kathryn (clean teen fiction) said...

Thank you for sharing. This is really great to know.

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

Thank you for sharing this. And yes, I do like women. Very much, as it happens. Less women in the world would be a Bad Thing (tm).

Ashley said...

What an incredible story and how awesome of you to spread the word.

Suz Korb said...

Oh jeez! I have a stabbing sensation in my right abdomen now after reading this!

Scary. And I'm majorly glad you're not dead too :)

Rick said...

*hugs*

We Heart YA said...

Gah, Kiersten, we've read this 3 times already (once a year) and we still get chills every time. {hug} Glad you're okay, and thanks for the PSA.

Heather B. Moore said...

Thanks for sharing this, Kiersten. My sister had this happen years ago, and thankfully she went to the ER and ended up being fine as well. Her story is almost identical to yours.

colleencoplick said...

I had an ectopic when I was 23. I didn't know any of these symptoms and instead went out to the club where my boyfriend was working. The next day, we drove from Vancouver (BC) to Seattle for dinner. we were over an hour from the border (and free healthcare!) when I realized it was really time to go to the hospital, now. I still didn't know what it was. Thankfully, my surgeon caught the ectopic before it burst, but I was apparently about 10 min away from that occurring. This is ridiculously scary and can happen to ANYONE. I had zero risk factors and was ridiculously healthy. I was even on birth control. Thank you Kiersten for this. I'm r/t, reposting and spreading it around. :)

Emily said...

I caught mine early. Didn't have any of the big issues, but easily could have. It was in April and it still hurts to think about it and to remember it. Thanks for sharing your story. Hoping I'm brave enough to do the same someday.

Marissa said...

Glad you recognized the signs to get help and that you are still with us.

THE SMITHS said...

Oh my gosh kiersten you are amazing! thank you for sharing this with us. I am glad that you are still here. Lots of hugs!

Lanae T. said...

Glad to hear that you came through it. I've been through that, too.

Pain so intense it doubled me over. Couldn't get up to get to a phone. Thankfully the little guy I babysat could reach the counter.
Husband was 20 miles away. By the time he got home, I was laying on the bed, crying, in horrible pain. He got me to the doctor's office. They let me sit in the waiting room for 20 minutes. I sat there and cried and bled. Finally the nurse took me back to a room.

I sat in there for almost a half hour. When the doctor came in, he took one look at me, called in an ultrasound machine and told me to lean back. I was in so much pain I could barely move. He helped me lay back and then got ready to do the ultrasound. As soon as he touched the probe to my abdomen, I screamed. It hurt so bad.

I was in the hospital 15 minutes later for emergency surgery. My ectopic pregnancy had turned into an "explosion" according to the doctor.

Afterwards, the doctor told my husband he "couldn't get the f**king blood to stop." I had massive internal bleeding because of the rupture. To the point that he could not figure out where it was coming from until they had totally vaccuumed out the blood. They had to do major cauterization just to get the bleeding stopped.

After that surgery, I had 1 (hopefully) working fallopian tube left. I'm now lucky enough to have 2 beautiful kids.

Thank you so much, Kiersten, for writing about this and sharing the sypmtoms. Do not ignore it, ladies. And if you have ever gone through it, I'm sorry and hope that you are alright today.

Melanie Jacobson said...

My friend Laura just went through this two months ago. She already has six kids so she knew something wasn't going right with the pregnancy and she was able to get into surgery in time, but you're right, so many women experiencing first or second pregnancies would never know. Thanks for the PSA.

Lady Gwen said...

I'm glad you're not dead, too! Thanks for the heads up. I'm past childbearing, but not grandchildbearing! So now I know!

Michelle said...

I have a relative who went through this. Like you, she nearly died. The problem for her was that she'd actually gotten pregnant with twins. One had implanted correctly in the uterus while the other was in the tube. So when her body aborted the first, trying to get rid of the tubal, she thought that was it. But a few weeks later, she was rushed to the ER with horrible pain. After 10 years and giving up hope of ever having a child, her son is now 6 months old. So yes, a very important message.

Jessica said...

This is a great post. I had an ectopic pregnancy 4 months ago but caught it early enough where I didn't need surgery. They were able to give me a shot of methotrexate to terminate.

Kate said...

This is really great to know! I'm even more concerned about having kids then I was before though now. . .
I'm sorry you had to go through that, but I'm sure you're helping a lot of people, saving lives, by posting this. Thank you.

Lily Robinson said...

Thank you so much for sharing! I am certain that someone who needs this information has read it here. I believe that you have saved at least one life, if not more.

S.D. said...

I almost lost my mom when I was little to an ectopic pregnancy. She made it four months, but came very close to dying. Most people don't know what an ectopic pregnancy even is. Thank you for sharing.

Stacy Whitman said...

This happened to a roommate of mine in college. We had no idea what was going on when she just collapsed, but thankfully we got her to the hospital in time and she survived. She'd endured the pain, thinking it was her endometriosis--and that's why knowing these symptoms is so important. When you know the difference, you can differentiate better

Angela Felsted said...

Wow, that is seriously scary. I'm glad you're still alive.

Lexie said...

Thank you so much. Seriously, thank you. I'm so sorry that you had to go through what you did, but what you're doing here is great. I won't have to worry about this for several years, but this way I--and all others who read this post--can help save our friends and family. So thank you. Really.

CNHolmberg said...

Oh wow. Thanks for sharing--something I'll remember for sure.

Megs said...

As always, we too are so glad you are not dead! :)

Hannah said...

Glad you're not dead. Really. We would have lost one amazing author.

Linda said...

I'm so glad you posted this. A friend of mine had her tube burst in the middle of her wedding due to an ectopic pregnancy and she didn't even know she was pregnant. She's fine now and has three children, but if she hadn't gotten to the hospital in time she would have died. This is definitely something people need to be aware of.

Angela S. Stone said...

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The nurse in me loves you for posting this. So important for women to know or be aware of this.

*hug* I'm so sorry you had to go through this, but your story will help save lives. So again thank you for sharing.

xx
Angela

bridgetstraub.com said...

My sister went through this and interestingly before that she had a burst appendix. It was because of that , that she had the scarring that caused the etopic pregnancy. Fortunatly she survived both.

Laura said...

*HUGS* I love you, Kiersten. I'm glad you're still with us! Thank you for sharing this. Apparently, I am at risk for this and had no idea. That is very important to know should I decide to have children!

Becca said...

Thank you for sharing this, Kiersten. I didn't have an ectopic pregnancy, but I've had miscarriages, and now know I cannot have kids. Unfortunately, I didn't know that when I got pregnant. No one really educates girls about their body, the risks, and the way to protect themselves and keeps themselves safe, even in a monogamous relationship. Even if you're married, there are still scary risks. It's so important to share experiences like these. I had no idea that morning sickness is very similar to the beginning symptoms of gall bladder stones and infected liver ducts. I thought I was having a baby, turns out I was having a near death experience and a baby. You are right on about the shoulder pain. I honestly thought it was a heart attack or something. I'm glad I asked. Some people don't. And that's a mistake you can't usually take back.
I'm glad you didn't get dead. My "I didn't get dead" anniversary is the 15th of October. Seven years ago next month.
Glad you are still here :)

Mundie Moms said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mundie Moms said...

I am so glad you're not dead either, and that you had researched and listened to that prompting to know that something was wrong!

What an amazing post! Thank you so much for making me more of aware of this and for sharing your personal story. I already admired you, but I respect you even more for spreading the word about something so series that effects so many women!

Sarah B said...

Kiersten- I loved you before and even more now. I recently had a miscarriage and you inspired me. Thank you for informing people of what could be a potentially deadly situation. You're saving lives, and your fans, (myself included), love and appreciate you and your thoughtfulness. Thanks for being you :)

Anonymous said...

I've never forgotten my mother's story about being rushed to the hospital and having to undergo emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. When I began having pain two days after a positive pregnancy test, I knew enough to pay attention; while my medical experience wasn't ideal (doctors dragging their feet), I got surgery in time.

This is why it is so important to tell these stories -- and thank you for doing it.

Ellen Brickley said...

I shared this over on my own blog too. It's important that this information reaches as many people as possible.

I'm sorry you went through this, Kiersten. Thanks so much for raising awareness.

Melissa said...

First, I am glad you are alive. :-D

Second, I'm sharing this now.

Diane Zahler said...

This happened to me, 20 years ago. After the sonogram confirming, the docs let me walk to my ob/gyn carrying the films without telling me what was going on. On the way, the tube burst. I almost bled to death. Afterward, all the doctors "lost" my records. Two decades on, it is still painful to think about. Thanks for raising awareness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this PSA.

I'm a freshman in college, and had been in class for a few weeks when my roommate went to the student health center for a bad cough. She did have an upper respiratory infection, but also discovered while she was there that she was pregnant. She'd taken Plan B, but the embryo implanted on one of her tubes.

They didn't find out it was ectopic until almost a week after she initially found out she was pregnant, but luckily it hadn't progressed too far, and I don't think she was experiencing abdominal pain. They were able to give her a type of medicine also used in chemo to dissolve the embryo, and she won't have to have surgery, though she will have decreased fertility.

I knew that, had she not gone to the doctor, she would have been in pain, but I didn't really know until reading this that ectopic pregnancies are so deadly. Thank you for talking about something that does not get mentioned nearly enough.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Thanks for sharing your story to help others.

And while we're talking about women's health, may I add that women need to ask for a thyroid guard when they get their mammograms. They don't give you a guard as a matter of course--you have to ask for it.

Better safe than sorry.

Karen Adair said...

I am so grateful you're alive and well. I remember the first time I learned about ectopic pregnancies. I was around 13 and my mom told me one of our youth leaders was rushed to the hospital because of this. Her case sounded a lot like yours and my mom impressed the severity of the situation to us. Sadly my leader was not able to have any more children, but she was alive and grateful for it. Her boys were happy too. :) Thanks for sharing. It's sad but important!

Jordanne said...

I've never heard of this before! :O It's terrifying and....wow....<3

Escape Artist said...

You've brought back memories. Wanting a baby so badly, ignoring pain that shouldn't be there!
It's scary when you want something, what you're so willing to go through! Thank you for sharing your story, reminding us to be aware, and to be safe!
I'm so very glad you didn't ignore your symptoms, and so very glad you're reminding many others not to ignore theirs!
All the very best!

Kristen Taber said...

I'm going through this now and I really appreciate your ability to share. I'm so grief-stricken, I can't even speak of it to anyone.

It's truly important to note these signs, but it's also important to mention that many cases have no symptoms at all. I only had normal hcg/progesterone levels and rises and normal pregnancy symptoms.

In these cases, doctors who do early u/s (fortunately, mine always does them at 5 weeks or so) will save lives and prevent surgery.

Thank you again for sharing. I hope someday I'll get to the point where you are.

Anonymous said...

I agree people need to be aware about ectopic pregnancies. My situaton was very different and the symptoms not the same as yours, but it was ectopic nonetheless. I had about five scans with nothing being detected. A month after I was told I was miscarrying the pain became very severe (it had been discomfort before that) and I was hospitalised. In the end I had surgery and the tube removed. The tube didn't burst but had been damaged. Given the early stage I was at, I'm not sure any scan would have showed anything up, but as it was it was missed for a few weeks. It was grim and if anyone can avoid it they should! I've a place to run the London Marathon next year in aid of the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust as a result - they were fantastic when I needed support.

Anonymous said...

Last year when I was 21 I had been mildly sick for a week (I thought I had a bad cold) and then I suddenly collapsed & rushed to the hospital. My mom thought that I had an Ectopic pregnancy (extreme pain in lower abdomen, blood in urine, cramping, pain in back, etc). Luckily I wasn't pregnant but before that I had never heard of them. I figured that since I had my period monthly, there was no chance that I could be pregnant.

Turns out I had a really bad kidney infection and a stomach virus! The combination of the two killed my system in a similar manner that dysentery does to most people.

I'm glad that you didn't die! This post may help some one in the future recognize the signs. I know that I would have been in a bad situation if I had been pregnant with an Ectopic pregnancy because I had never heard of it.

Lindzee said...

Wow, good information to know. I have been told by my doctors I have a 95%-99% chance of having an ectopic pregnancy if I manage to get pregnant on my own, yet they've never told me what to look out for, just to come in immediately upon discovering I'm pregnant for an early ultrasound. I never realized it was super dangerous to me...they just told me I would need to come in early so we could hopefully save my already severely damaged tubes. Good information to know!