Ectopic pregnancy is devastating and life threatening, occurs in around 2 percent of pregnancies and yet is rarely spoken of. This brave mum wants to change all that.
Content Warning: This post contains discussion of baby loss.
“I thought I was having a miscarriage”
Irish mum Kerri Stedman is harnessing the power of social media to share the symptoms and heartbreak of ectopic pregnancy, using her family’s own difficult experience to educate other parents.
“I thought I was having a miscarriage, and I rang the hospital and they suggested I waited until my scan which was supposed to be in a few days,” Kerri remembers.
Unbeknownst to Kerri, she was not having a miscarriage, but rather experiencing the early, tell-tale symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy.
“While I was on the phone, my husband was massaging my shoulder because I had shoulder pain, which is actually a symptom of an internal bleed, which I never would have been aware of.”
Kerri was admitted to hospital, diagnosed with a possible ectopic pregnancy.
Watch and wait
As she waited for confirmation of what was causing her pain, Kerri collapsed and was rushed into surgery.
Doctors saved her life, but sadly not her baby’s. Kerri and her husband were understandably devastated.
“In the space of a few hours we had not only lost our baby but we lost our future plans. I would never hear my baby cry or see their first smile. My husband would never be able to teach them to ride a bike or watch their first school play,” Kerri explains.
Struggling with grief and concerned that this common condition was a mystery to most mums-to-be, Kerri created an emotional video to educate other parents, and set about raising funds to support ectopic pregnancy awareness.
Viral video message
In the video, she wrote:
Behind each ectopic pregnancy is a woman with a story to tell. In November 2015, we found out we were pregnant. We were ecstatic. We started preparing and planning for our expanding family.
December 9th, 2015. I started bleeding. I thought it was a miscarriage.
December 11th, 2015. I had a scan and was told it was possibly “ectopic”. I was admitted, not knowing exactly what it was. I collapsed and was rushed to theatre. They saved my life.
Our baby died. I nearly died. I felt numb.
I healed physically from open surgery. And the grief hit. Guilt, jealousy, anger, sadness, lonely, helpless, empty.
There was nowhere to go for support. Just like there is no awareness. In memory of our baby, we want to change that.
Getting the message out
Kerri says she made the clip to let other parents know more about this heartbreaking and potentially fatal condition, posting it to her Facebook page for easy sharing.
“[Ectopic pregnancy] is rarely discussed and since I posted [about] it, I’ve had hundreds of women from all over the world contact me who had similar experiences. Let’s get people talking about it so women know the symptoms before it’s too late,” Kerri said.
The video has prompted other parents to speak out about their own experience of baby loss and ectopic pregnancy.
“Thank you for sharing. My first pregnancy was ectopic. We lost our baby November 23, 2005. The pain of the loss never goes away. Everything you mentioned that you experience with your feelings is exactly how I felt and still feel at times,” one mum wrote.
“Today 5 years ago we lost our baby through ectopic and no matter how much time passes you still feel the numbness. Something missing,” an emotional dad posted.
“Gosh we had 3 ectopic pregnancies all with varying complications. Treatment was excellent but some of the questions people asked me were horrendous. Terrible lack of knowledge out there. Let’s do more to educate people,” another mum said.
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a baby begins to grow outside of the uterus. This usually means in the fallopian tube, but sometimes a baby can form in an ovary, a c-section scar or other parts of the abdomen.
These babies can not survive outside of the uterus which means that sadly women either spontaneously miscarry or need surgery to end the pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy will be diagnosed via pelvic examination, blood tests, ultrasound and/or laparoscopy (‘keyhole’ surgery).
Untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can lead to serious internal bleeding or occasionally even death.
Victoria’s Royal Women’s Hospital tells us that 1 to 2 percent of pregnancies are ectopic.
There’s an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy:
- If a woman has had fertility treatment such as IVF
- If a woman has reversed her tubal ligation
- If a woman suffers endometriosis
- If a woman has a history of pelvic infection
- If a woman has damaged fallopian tubes
- If a woman has had previous surgery (for instance c-section, ovarian cysts or appendix removal)
- If a woman has become pregnant while using an IUD or a progestogen only pill.
The symptoms of ectopic pregnancy may include one or more of the following:
- the typical signs of pregnancy, such as missing a period, morning sickness and breast tenderness
- lower abdominal pain
- lower back pain
- cramps on one side of the pelvis
- vaginal bleeding or spotting
- sudden and severe pain in the lower abdomen
Kerri’s efforts are to support and raise awareness of ectopic pregnancy and The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust. Perhaps you’d like to contribute to this important cause?
If you’re struggling with the loss of a baby, please don’t go it alone. SANDS counsellors are there to support you and provide helpful advice about living with loss.