One in 80 pregnancies is ectopic, yet the condition is little known. Katie Baldwin talks to one sufferer.
When Becky Sweaton discovered she was pregnant last year, she was over the moon. Sadly her happiness was to be short-lived.
A few weeks into the pregnancy she was rushed to hospital in severe pain and diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus implants outside the womb, meaning it cannot be saved.
Becky needed an urgent operation to remove her fallopian tube – and in a cruel twist of fate, just over a year later she had exactly the same experience.
This time her remaining fallopian tube had to be removed too, so she is now unable to conceive naturally.
Now she is determined encourage more people to speak openly about the devastating condition, as well as support the charity which helped her.
“I can’t describe what myself and my partner are going through, but I will say the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust has helped not only me but so many others,” she said.
“What they do is amazing which is why I want to raise money for them.”
Becky, from Hunslet, Leeds, found out she was expecting early last year and was thrilled.
But after just a few weeks, she felt an “unimaginable” pain in her left side.
By coincidence, both her mum and auntie had suffered ectopic pregnancies and so she knew this was one of the telltale symptoms.
“I knew what the pain was when I got that pain,” she said.
She was rushed to A&E, then transferred to a specialist unit at St James’s Hospital.
There, doctors told her that her worst fears were correct and the baby could not be seen in the womb.
“Unfortunately my fallopian tube had already ruptured and there was no option other than to remove it,” she said.
The 28-year-old was quickly taken to surgery and was allowed back home after two days but it took her a long time to recover physically, while the emotional pain took even longer.
“It took a lot of time for me to get over the fear of it happening again,” she said.
“It took a lot to gather the courage to try again and this April I fell pregnant again. I cried as I was so happy, and frightened of what would happen.”
Because of her history, Becky was given an early scan at hospital which showed that again the baby could not be seen, suggesting problems.
After several scans, medics diagnosed another ectopic pregnancy and realised her remaining fallopian tube had ruptured.
This time, the condition had been picked up earlier so she was given various options.
But as she realised that the cause was probably that her fallopian tubes were damaged, causing the foetuses to get stuck there, she chose to have her other tube removed because she knew the problem would keep happening.
“It was the right choice to make,” she said.
It was an incredibly difficult one, seeing as Becky cannot now have children naturally.
However IVF treatment is an option and she and her partner have started the process of looking into fertility treatment.
Despite her family’s history of ectopic pregnancy, with her auntie having gone through exactly the same as her, doctors told Becky it was simply a coincidence.
One in 80 pregnancies are ectopic, with 32,000 woman admitted to hospital with the condition every year.
Throughout Becky’s ordeal, she has been supported by family and friends as well as the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust.
She said that the charity, especially their message board which enabled her to read other women’s experiences, had been a massive help.
“There are a lot of women on there who talk to each other and support each other,” she said.
Becky and her female relatives joined forces for a walk from Thwaite Mills to Kirkstall Abbey last Saturday to raise funds for the trust.
“We wanted to support others and raise awareness,” she said.
“Nobody knows that much about it, it’s not a discussion they want to have. We wanted to give something back.”