Suspected ectopic pregnancy resulted in complications and surgery before IVF success.
One in 80 pregnancies are ectopic and for many women, like Lucy from Cambridgeshire, this can impact their future fertility. Rapid action can be lifesaving, so Lucy has shared her story to raise awareness ahead of the first birthday of her ‘dream baby’ on 9 August.
Lucy’s fertility journey started when she was 23. Lucy and her fiancé George had been trying to conceive for 18 months and saw their GP to get advice.
“I was worried that because I was young the GP would brush me off,” says Lucy. “But they were really supportive and offered me tests for my thyroid function and FSH blood test and George a semen analysis. Everything came back fine.
“The last thing they offered me was to go to Addenbrookes for an HSG when they flush the dye through your tubes… and surprisingly that was absolutely fine too.
“After that I had a normal period. Then, about five days later I started to bleed, which is very out of the ordinary for me. I did a pregnancy test, and it came back positive. The early pregnancy unit said a bit of spotting in early pregnancy can be quite normal.”
The couple, from Linton, then went on holiday to Corfu. “About two days in, I got an awful pain in my side and ended up having a scan in the hospital,” continues Lucy. “They couldn’t see anything wrong so gave me some powerful painkillers and the pain eased. The holiday did end in a lovely way though, as we got engaged.”
Back home, Lucy told her story to her GP, who was very concerned. An appointment was immediately made at the Early Pregnancy Unit at Addenbrookes to have a scan which showed there was fluid in the tubes, but no longer a pregnancy. “They suspected an ectopic pregnancy that was slowly resolving itself,” says Lucy.
Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, Medical Director for Bourn Hall, the world’s first IVF clinic, explains that an ectopic pregnancy happens when the fertilised egg is delayed while progressing down the fallopian tube to the womb. If the pregnancy continues inside the tube, the tube can burst and cause internal bleeding.
“The symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include unusual bleeding, discomfort in the abdomen, shoulder tip pain and fainting. If you experience these in early pregnancy, then you should seek immediate medical help.
“Fertility problems can occur later if the fallopian tubes are damaged or if there is a build-up of fluid in the tubes, known as a hydrosalpinx.”
The couple had planned to get married, but then Covid hit and they decided to postpone the wedding and investigate IVF treatment. George already had a daughter so they knew they would need to self-fund.
“When the fertility clinics re-opened, we chose Bourn Hall near Cambridge to have a fresh start and because the success rates are so good. There I was told that the hydrosalpinx needed to be drained before I could have IVF as the fluid is toxic to the embryo.
“I booked an appointment with a private hospital to have the tube removed and the other checked. When I came around from the operation, the consultant said that the right one was also damaged, and he had removed that too! That was a real shock.
“So, we started IVF at Bourn Hall with my next cycle, it was very quick and it worked first time! All the doctors and nurses were so reassuring. One of the main things we loved about Bourn Hall is that it isn’t a typical ‘hospital’ environment. Hospitals have always given me anxiety. For my egg collection it was so quiet, not hectic at all and this just really helped put me at ease in preparation for my procedure.
“I was on tenterhooks throughout the pregnancy because of everything that had happened, I never really relaxed, but I don’t think you ever do.
“When Polly finally arrived, I just couldn’t believe it. It felt like a dream, I have always wanted to be a mum and George was exhausted and so happy too.”
Now, as the family look forward to celebrating Polly’s first birthday Lucy says that being a mum is “everything and more than I could have imagined.”
Bourn Hall’s fertility clinics across the East of England provide both NHS-funded and self-funded IVF treatment as well as fertility testing. Patients across the East of England who have undergone fertility tests at an NHS hospital and been told they meet the criteria for NHS-funded IVF can ask to be referred to Bourn Hall.
For those concerned about their fertility, including the impact of previous illnesses and medical procedures, it is possible to see a Bourn Hall fertility consultant on a self-funded basis without a GP referral.
If you want to find out more about your fertility health book a consultation now.
Find out more information about ectopic pregnancy Ectopic Pregnancy Trust: ectopic.org.uk.