Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Six Years Later PSA

This is a blog that I repost 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, several women have told me that knowing the symptoms was what got them to the hospital in time. Please read it. Please tell other women about it.

This is a particularly painful time for me to post this, and my heart goes out to anyone who may be struggling with fertility issues or loss. You are not alone. I wish you peace and joy in the life that you have, even if it is not the life you'd imagined for yourself, and I wish you all the strength and support you need to find that peace and joy. (And I also want you to know it's okay to not be okay now, and it's okay to not be okay sometimes even after you are okay.)

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 five 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.

3 comments:

E.B. Black said...

Wow. That's so scary. I'm glad you survived that, too!

Feisty Harriet said...

I really appreciate you posting and re-posting this every year. And I also really appreciate your kindness and understanding of other women and where they may be vs where they want to be when it comes to fertility.

Loves to you
xox

PS I'm also really really glad you aren't dead.

Snow Whiteley said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I didn't see this until just now, but I had some these symptoms just 2 days after you posted this and thought I was having problems with my appendix.

After a quick trip to urgent care and the ER, we figured out it was an ectopic pregnancy and I was immediately admitted to the hospital. Thanks for being so open about your experience. Your info really could save lives.