An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg implants itself outside the womb. Ectopic is Latin for “in the wrong place”. It is a life-threatening condition for the woman. The major cause of a ectopic is when the egg for some reason is unable to reach the uterus.
An ectopic pregnancy most commonly occurs (95%) in a fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies can also occur in an ovary, in the abdominal space or in the cervix. None of these areas have as much space or nurturing tissue as the uterus for a pregnancy to develop. As the fetus grows, it will eventually rupture the space that contains it. This can cause severe bleeding and endanger the mother’s life and future fertility. A ectopic pregnancy unfortunately cannot develop into a live birth.
How common are ectopic pregnancies?
Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition that affects 1 in 80 pregnancies in Ireland.
Many women who have an ectopic pregnancy do not experience any symptoms. The pregnancy may not be found to be ectopic until an early scan shows up the problem or a woman’s fallopian tube has ruptured.
If there are symptoms, they usually appear between weeks 5 and 14 of the pregnancy. With early diagnosis, the pregnancy can be safely ended using medication or surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment may improve the chances of having a normal pregnancy at a later date.
If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can be fatal. The area where the egg is, especially in the fallopian tube, can split (rupture), causing internal abdominal bleeding and life-threatening blood loss.
If there are no organs damaged, unfortunately you have a 10% chance of having another ectopic pregnancy in the future, so extra medical attention and care will be required.
An ectopic pregnancy can be a very traumatic event, not only do parents have to cope with the disappointment and loss of pregnancy, but mothers have to cope with the physical recovery from surgery. And in some cases life-saving medical procedures caused by rupturing of internal organs and blood loss.
If organs like the fallopian tubes are damaged, they may also have to be removed, causing concerns over future fertility. In the cases of ruptures and emergency surgery life-saving surgery it is a very frightening and upsetting time for the mother, father and their families and friends.
Due to the hormonal changes in their bodies women may also suffer from post-partum blues after the pregnancy ends. Some women may even suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from having a traumatic ectopic pregnancy rupture and end of their pregnancy. Sometimes, the emotional impact is felt immediately after the end of pregnancy, whereas in other cases it can take several weeks to emerge.
The most common emotions that are felt after an ectopic pregnancy are grief and stress. They can cause physical and emotional symptoms.
Physical symptoms of grief and stress include:
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulties concentrating
- Sleeping problems
Emotional symptoms of grief and stress include:
- Shock and numbness
- An overwhelming sense of sadness
When a couple finds out they were going to have a baby and have an ectopic pregnancy their hopes, dreams and plans are shattered for that child and family, irrelevant if they have never seen or held the baby, not having any mementoes of the baby can also cause great distress. You may not have told many people that you were pregnant especially depending on how far along you were, so depending on the medical treatment required you may now have to tell people, take time off work to recover, very often people don’t know how to support you, or they may say the wrong thing which only adds to your distress.
Regardless of how your pregnancy ended it does not matter when it comes to an individual’s emotional impact, we are all unique and our emotions as well as our coping skills are unique to each person as well. We all grieve and cope differently and for different lengths of time, never compare yourself to someone else or judge someone else like your partner on how they are grieving or coping, there is no right or wrong way.
You may have to cope with the physical and emotional effects of surgery, especially if it was emergency life-saving surgery. Fathers may be left feeling very helpless and scared after emergency situations where the mother was rushed to emergency life-saving surgery.
Dealing with the emotional strains and stress of possible future fertility problems will also add to your emotional trauma.
Different people cope in different ways. Some people find it comforting to talk about their feelings, while others find the subject too painful to discuss. Studies have shown it takes longer to deal with grief and trauma and may end up causing other mental health issues if you do not talk about it or deal with your grief and trauma which is why Nurture Health is here to help you
You are not alone, and it really is okay to talk about it!
If you are worried that you or your partner are having problems coping with or after an ectopic pregnancy or are feeling overwhelmed, you may need help and counselling. Nurture Health is here to help.