Emmerdalefans watched Charity Dingle (Emma Atkins) who is pregnant with her partner Mackenzie Boyd (Lawrence Robb) lose her baby. Mack finds Charity after she collapses in agony on the floor. He gets her to hospital, where it’s revealed that her pregnancy is ectopic.
Shattered, the pair listen to the heartbeat of the baby they’re destined to lose. Charity is grateful for Mack’s support, but understandably, they’re both left shell shocked.
OK! spoke exclusively spoke to Consultant Dr Charlotte Cassis, who specialises in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, to find out out more about the dangers.
What is ectopic pregnancy?
"Ectopic pregnancies are any pregnancy that occurs outside the womb," explains Dr Cassis. "The majority of these will be in the Fallopian tubes (the tubes connecting your ovaries and womb) but in rare cases can be elsewhere. An ectopic pregnancy can never survive."
How common are they and are some women more at risk?
"They are fairly common, current UK statistic are around 1 in 90 pregnancies, so just over 1%," says Dr Cassis.
"Some of the things that put you at risk are having had a previous ectopic (exact recurrence risk will depend on the type of treatment you had for the last one but is around 7-10%), conceiving when you have a coil (IUD) fitted, a history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or any previous damage to your Fallopian tubes. People going through IVF can also increase your risk of ectopic."
According to the NHS, while you can't always prevent an ectopic pregnancy, you can reduce your risk by using a condom when not trying for a baby to protect yourself against STIs, and by stopping smoking if you smoke. The NHS also lists increasing age as a factor – the risk is highest for pregnant women aged 35 to 40.
How would you know you are having one?
"Signs and symptoms vary but usually occur around six weeks pregnant (around 2 weeks after your missed period). They include pain in your pelvic region, irregular bleeding, shoulder tip pain and more rarely very severe pain and even collapse – which happened in Charity's case.
"A variety of things are used to diagnose an ectopic, including your symptoms, blood tests and an ultrasound scan.
"If you have any of these symptoms, it's important to seek medical advice quickly as if left can become very serious and even life threatening."
What treatments are available?
"There are different treatment options and the options available will depend on the specific case," explains Dr Cassis.
"There are three options. In some cases, the pregnancy will go away by itself and will just need close monitoring, this is called expectant or conservative management.
The secondly is to treat it with a medicine called methotrexate, which is used to stop the pregnancy growing.
The third option is surgery used to remove the pregnancy, usually along with the affected fallopian tube. This is usually performed via keyhole."
What else should women be aware of?
Losing a pregnancy can be devastating, and many women feel the same sense of grief as if they had lost a family member or partner.
"It's important to remember that having an ectopic pregnancy can have a significant emotional impact on both the woman and her partner," says Dr Cassis. "There is a lot to process – the loss of a baby, the possible impact on future fertility as well as recovering from any treatment. Make sure you give yourself and your partner time to grieve.
"These feelings can last several months. Every woman will react differently, and the emotions may take some time to come out fully. In some cases I have seen patients who emotionally struggled only once they fall pregnant again.
"So it's important to seek help if you feel you aren't coping or need support. The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust is a useful resource."
How soon can you try for another baby?
You may want to try for another baby when you and your partner feel physically and emotionally ready. You'll probably be advised to wait until you've had at least 2 periods after treatment before trying again to allow yourself to recover.
If you were treated with methotrexate, it's usually recommended that you wait at least 3 months because the medicine could harm your baby if you become pregnant during this time.
According to the NHS, overall, 65% of women achieve a successful pregnancy within 18 months of an ectopic pregnancy. Occasionally, it may be necessary to use fertility treatment such asIVF .
The chances of having another ectopic pregnancy are higher if you've had one before, but the risk is still small (around 10%).
"The good news is that the majority of women will go on to have a normal pregnancy after an ectopic," reassures Dr Cassis. "Even if you need surgery and have one tube removed, your fertility is only reduced slightly."
If you do become pregnant again, it's a good idea to let your GP know as soon as possible so early scans can be carried out to check everything is OK.
Support groups for people who have been affected by loss of a pregnancy can help, including:
- The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust
TheEctopic Pregnancy Foundation
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