Woman who had three ectopic pregnancies and two miscarriages feared she'd never become a mum
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Featured Image Credit: Jessica Page
Trigger warning: This article discusses baby loss
When Jessica Page found out she was pregnant in 2016, she never imagined that the pregnancy she had longed for would end in life-threatening circumstances.
A few months prior, Jess, now 31, and partner Ross had sadly suffered a miscarriage. After just a couple of weeks of testing positive once again, Jess discovered that her second pregnancy was ectopic.
Within less than an hour of being dealt the devastating news, Jess was in theatre, where she sadly had both the pregnancy - and one of her fallopian tubes - removed.
In the UK, one in 80 pregnancies is ectopic, which means that the growing embryo has developed outside of the uterus. In most ectopic pregnancies, this takes place in one of the fallopian tubes, while in other rare cases, the embryo can develop in the cervix, or even within the scar of a previous caesarean section.
Ectopic pregnancies can be dangerous if not detected early, and a lack of understanding of the signs, symptoms and consequences means that for some women, an ectopic pregnancy can be fatal. If left for too long, the embryo can cause the fallopian tube to rupture, leading to life-threatening bleeding.
While the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can include pain, bleeding, shoulder tip pain, and feeling dizzy or faint, Jess first became concerned when she experienced a tar-like discharge shortly after her positive pregnancy test.
"As we were trying to get pregnant, I had been actively testing, but despite having missed my period, I was still getting negative tests - looking back, this was my first warning sign," Jess tells Tyla.
"With an ectopic, your hormone levels increase more slowly, so I'd probably missed my period by a week and then had the positive test. I was so excited. I rang the doctors and they told me to just make sure I was taking my folic acid and they’d see me at 12 weeks."
But Jess became concerned when she noticed black, tar-like discharge.
"I was eight weeks at this point and went in to have a scan. Immediately, the sonographer said 'oh, there’s a heartbeat’, followed by, 'but it’s in the wrong place’.
"He said the pregnancy wasn’t in my womb but in my fallopian tube and straight away my partner asked, 'can you just move it?' Looking back we didn't even know what an ectopic pregnancy was.
"We were told the pregnancy wasn't viable and we were devastated. A nurse then came in and explained it was life-threatening, she said my tube could burst and I could bleed out. I was told I would be losing my fallopian tube and within an hour I was in surgery. I had no idea what this would mean for our future."
Depending on when an ectopic pregnancy is detected, treatment options can vary.
While some can be treated with a drug called methotrexate, others require surgery - either by removing the affected tube or removing the pregnancy from within the tube.
Jess developed PTSD after her first ectopic pregnancy, and spent the next few months coming to terms with what had happened. A few months later, she fell pregnant again, but sadly suffered a miscarriage at 12 weeks.
Jess and Ross continued trying to start their family, and in June 2017, Jess found out she was pregnant again. But sadly, the pregnancy was ectopic.
"I rang the doctors straight away, I told them I needed them to check it wasn’t ectopic because I only had one tube left. But they said I wouldn’t know until they could scan me at six weeks," she says.
"Instead, they gave me blood tests every 48 hours to check HCG levels [a hormone produced during pregnancy]. If the levels were doubling every two days that’s a positive sign of a successful pregnancy. Mine were going up, but not as much as they would have expected.
"I went in and had the scan at six weeks. Moments later, I was put straight in a side room and they told me it was ectopic again. This time, it was detected early enough that I was able to have methotrexate, a chemo drug that kills cells in your body."
Determined not to give up, in November 2017, Jess and Ross were overjoyed when they fell pregnant once more. This time, the pregnancy was successful and the couple welcomed their daughter, Ruby the following August.
"She was absolutely spoilt rotten, but I always wanted to give her a sibling. Everyone around me told me I was lucky to have one, but if I didn't have fertility problems, they wouldn't say that," Jess explains.
"I wanted to try and get the family I wanted. Even if I couldn't have conceived again myself we would have looked at adoption."
Jess fell pregnant again in early 2020, but unfortunately her positive test was followed by tell-tale signs that the pregnancy was not developing in the correct place.
"I knew straight away. I was getting the tar-like discharge and recognised the signs immediately. I was around seven weeks and was told I would need surgery again. I didn't want to lose my remaining tube and so they offered me a salpingostomy. It's rare that they offer this but essentially it removes the pregnancy from within the tube."
Unfortunately, Jess suffered complications from the surgery after a small amount of tissue was left within her uterus, causing internal bleeding. As a result, she was given methotrexate once again, but the entire process lasted around eight weeks.
Despite the devastating loss, good news was just around the corner.
"My tube was saved, and I went on to get pregnant again with my second child, Mae, and I've just welcomed my third child, Freddie, who was born in December.
"We always wondered if we would have children, but now we have three. It has been hard. Every time I've known I was putting myself at risk."
After suffering very few symptoms with all three of her ectopic pregnancies, Jess wants to raise awareness over just how critical it is that an ectopic pregnancy is detected early enough.
"I don’t think people realise the short time frame you have; once you’re past six weeks you could lose a tube, it could affect your future fertility. Or it could rupture and you could die," she explains.
"In my first ectopic, I thought the warning signs were pain. If I had not had the black discharge, or if I had thought it was blood from an old period I could have ended up in a different situation.
"Maybe doctors should point out the things you should look out for when you first ring up about your pregnancy.
"During my second ectopic, I rang my GP and the doctor said, 'what do you want me to do at quarter to 6 at night?' In the end, I took myself to an out of hours and they did my blood test and got me in for a scan.
"If I’d waited another day it could have made a massive difference. Why do we have to fight for our own fertility?"
For more information about ectopic pregnancy, support and advice, you can visit the Miscarriage Association here.