Ectopic pregnancy - A close shave with death

Friday, July 14, 2017

On that eventful day in May 2004, the day started as usual for me. I had been experiencing constant abdominal pains for about 2 weeks and sometimes, diarrhoea and bloatedness too. A General Practitioner diagnosed these symptoms as heartburn and/or gastric pains and prescribed a course of medicines for me. Despite the pains, I went to work as I needed to prepare materials required for my students' Science practical exam.


The abdominal pains increased in intensity within the next few hours after I reached school - to the extent of a very bad gastric pain but by many folds more. I ate the meds but it didn't ease the pain. Worried, my colleagues advised me to rest at the sick bay and got Hubby to drive me home. I had wanted to go home and rest, hoping to sleep it off, but Hubby insisted on swinging by our usual family doctor for a check. 

My family doc gave me a jab to accelerate the relief of the "gastric pains" but her experience and instinct told her to look out for other risks - I had told her that I was pregnant but the gynae couldn't see an egg sac despite a positive urine test. After 15 minutes of waiting at her clinic and seeing that I was going into distress with the intense pains, she instructed Hubby to send me to KKH A&E immediately. 

Things happened very fast after reaching KK Hospital. I had lost all my strength while bearing the pains and collapsed on a wheelchair. An ultrasound scan later, I was briefed by a gynae at the A&E that my abdominal cavity was filled with fluid and she needed to perform a laparoscopy immediately to investigate the cause. 

Ectopic pregnancy

According to a Straits Times report in 2011, an ectopic pregnancy occurs in 1 in 300 pregnancies. (link to report) In the UK, it affects 1 in 80 pregnancies. (link)
Ectopic pregnancy is a leading cause of mortality in pregnant women. Basically, it is a pregnancy where the fertilised egg is located outside the uterus (womb) and the most common site is within the fallopian tube. A small number of ectopic pregnancies occur in the ovary, cervix or abdominal areas. An untreated ectopic pregnancy can be fatal as the internal organ can rupture if stretched too much by the growing pregnancy. This can cause rapid bleeding, infection, or lead to death. With prompt treatment, complications can be reduced and the chances of conceiving again are increased.

photo source
In my case, the fertilised egg was found on the external surface of my intestines and I was told by that gynae that this is one of the rarest forms of ectopic pregnancies. According to this source written in 2013, cases like mine account for only 1.4% of ectopic pregnancies.  That also caused the "gastric pains" and excessive internal bleeding. My foetus was removed and my abdominal cavity was cleaned up. In my delirious state after the surgery, I heard there were also stitches done to repair the wound on my intestine. 
Simply Lambchops and ectopic pregnancy
Photo from laparoscopy (May 2004)
Based on the features of the little bean (see his eye and undeveloped limbs?), the gynae estimated that he was around 2 months old. ("he" as a generic pronoun.) 

That makes one wonder, how on earth did he get there?? 

What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

Symptoms of ectopic pregnancies may occur from as early as 4 weeks after conceiving and up to 12 weeks or later. According to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, she may:

  • have missed her period
  • notice pregnancy symptoms like breast tenderness and nausea
  • have irregular vaginal bleeding, known as spotting
  • feel lower abdominal or pelvic pain on one or both sides that grows worse over time
If the ectopic pregnancy ruptures, she may:
  • feel severe pain in her lower belly
  • develop shoulder pain triggered by internal bleeding
  • feel dizzy and notice a whirling sensation
  • faint or pass out
Consult your gynaecologist early if you notice these symptoms. 


*****

It is 13 years since the ectopic pregnancy and God has blessed me with three more beautiful children. As we celebrate their birthdays in the next three months, I also remember my first bean who did not get the chance to enjoy our family love. I don't really miss him because the episode was too traumatic for me to get emotional over the loss, but his short stay in my body taught me some lessons.

If I had gone home to rest as what I intended to do ...
If Hubby had not insisted on sending me to my family doctor ...
If the family doctor had not kept me at her clinic for observations ...
If we had not been attended by that experienced doctor at KKH ...

... I might have bled to death that day.

The close shave with death was not a mere coincidence of events or luck. It was a striking reminder that God has blessed me over and over again and that my work on earth was not yet over. I am thankful for His faithfulness because He has promised that He will never forsake us in every situation we have to face.
For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV)
Sometimes when I am so wrapped up in my frustrations, I lose sight of Him. I forget His greatness and how He has always delivered me out of life's challenges. But the good news is, when I humble myself to lean on Him again, I feel His presence and realises that He has always walked close to me.

And peace fills my heart.

Simply Lambchops and ectopic pregnancy


(You may also want to read about my guest contributor's (Faith Liu) after-birth experience and why she thinks maternity insurance is important.)

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21 comments

  1. Really nice tips in which to avoid any health issue problems.And i think definitely it will be useful for many people so that they can utilize their ability with what they can. And please keep update like this.

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  2. Just heard about a similar experience from my friend. Such scary encounter and close shave for you! God bless this beautiful family yours.

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    1. It's scary enough to shock the people around me when it happened that day. I guess back then (that was 13 years ago!), there was less talk about ectopic pregnancies or could be misdiagnosed.

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  3. What an experience you have there. I cannot imagine if all the 'ifs' didn't happened... Am happy that you are now blessed with happy children and thank goodness your hubby was there for you too!

    Phoebe @ BPDGTravels

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  5. t was one of my fears when I was pregnant that it would be an ectopic pregnancy... you're a very brave mama and God has been good indeed to send 3 more angels your way.

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

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    1. When I conceived again after this ectopic pregnancy, I would keep asking the gynae if BB formed properly etc for all the early ultrasound scans. It's important to spot this early enough to prevent any undesired consequences.

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  6. Amen! Thank you for sharing and also for highlighting that there's light at the end of the tunnel. I, myself, struggled with endometriosis and had 2 surgeries to remove 2 large cysts in my ovaries. The gynae who operated on me both times told me that my falliopian tubes were completely blocked and that my chance of natural conception is almost zero. He also said that even if I conceived through IVF, I have a high risk of an ectopic pregnancy.

    But today, my 2 kids, conceived naturally, are living testimonies of God's amazing grace and bountiful love.

    May your powerful testimony continue to bless your readers and the people around you.

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    1. That's so wonderful to hear, ChermSee! God is good and He knows what we need and when we need. Welcome back to blogging!

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  7. My friend had an ectopic pregnancy and it was a bad experience for her. These are so valid points to share.

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    1. Thank you.
      More women need to know about ectopic pregnancies so that they can take the necessary steps to prevent further damage to their reproductive system.

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  8. Reading this reminded me of all the fears mums undergo when we learn about our pregnancies. It's not easy sharing the experience here, and you've been super brave and strong. All the 'what if's" too... Gosh.. take care!

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    1. Ya! I think each pregnancy is like a miracle. So many things can happen to lead to an unsuccessful one. So go hug your kids today and every day for they are winners! (:

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  9. Life is precious. Thank God for sustaining your life. Having nearly lost my own wife in an attempt to start a family, I can totally identify with this. Which is why each child is precious because there are always risks out there. Thank God once again.

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    1. Thanks, David. These words coming from you mean a lot. So many things can happen against our expectations during a pregnancy and every child, born or unborn, is His blessings.

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  10. I got emotional reading your post because I lost a friend from high school to ectopic pregnancy. Thank you for sharing your experience because many people are still unaware of such complication.

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    1. Sorry to hear about your high school friend. I didn't know how common ectopic pregnancy is until my personal encounter with it and the nurses at the hospital told me so. In that ward I was staying in, there were a few other patients who were admitted because of ectopic pregnancies.

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  11. Thank you for sharing this story. Ectopic pregnancy is one of the big gynae emergencies because it is life-threatening...and some women don't seek help because they think they're just having a particularly bad period. I'm so glad that things fell into place so that you were able to pull through this. Some people say this is luck or fate, but I think you know otherwise. ;)

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    1. That is so true, Debs! The symptoms are pretty much like an extremely bad period! In my case, it was worse cos there wasn't even any sign of an egg sac so the pregnancy was thought to be in its very early phase.

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  12. That is really scary! Heard about it sometime back from someone in India. This also reminds me of my own extremely pre-term delivery experience. Scary but Reality!

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