Saturday 24 March 2018

'I knew nothing about it until it happened to me'

Francesca Flynn with her husband Barry
Francesca Flynn with her husband Barry

Did you know that one in 80 women in Ireland will suffer from an ectopic pregnancy? And, did you know that, among other things, an ectopic pregnancy could be linked with the use of contraceptive methods such as the coil?

Neither did I. That was until I suffered from an ectopic pregnancy in May 2011. Up until then I had no idea what an ectopic pregnancy was or what the symptoms were. It never occurred to me that something like that would ever happen to me. I was young, healthy and had had a healthy little boy four years previously. So when I started to get early pregnancy symptoms coupled with bleeding I started to worry and wonder what was happening to me.

I suffered an ectopic pregnancy at five weeks and, as it had been left undiagnosed for so long, I had to have immediate surgery and have my left fallopian tube removed. Afterwards, I experienced every emotion from anger and frustration to a sadness that would leave me sobbing.

My husband and I offered each other great support but still I felt like I needed to speak to someone on the outside. It was only after I did an interview with the Drogheda Independent in August of last year that things began to change for me.

The founder of a relatively new charity, Ectopic Pregnancy Ireland, had seen the article in the paper and got in touch with one of its writers. From there the details were passed on to me and I have since become a member of this wonderful charity.

Ectopic Pregnancy Ireland (EPI) is a volunteer-led organisation that was set up by five women who had all experienced one or more ectopic pregnancies. Officially launched on March 24 last year, it received charity status that same month and has since gone from strength to strength.

With interviews with popular women's magazines, appearances on breakfast television and articles in the Irish Times, EPI has two main aims: to raise awareness among the general public and health professionals, and to provide information and support to those directly or indirectly suffering from such an enormous loss. EPI cannot offer counselling or medical advice but we can offer an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a pregnancy implants outside of the uterus. Ninetyfive per cent of ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube but it is also possible for them to occur in the ovaries, abdomen or cervix. It is not known why this happens but the most common reasons are damage to the tube due to appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease or surgery in the abdominal area.

In other instances there is a problem with the walls of the tube which can occur if the woman is using contraceptive methods such as the coil. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can sometimes mirror that of early pregnancy so it is important to recognise symptoms such as abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding and feeling nauseous or faint and get them checked by your GP immediately.

Anyone requiring more information, advice or support on ectopic pregnancies can contact the charity via its website or its Facebook page. The website offers stories from individual women, medical information and frquently asked questions, advice and support forums, news and blogs.

I found the website, and indeed this charity, an invaluable source for me while I was recovering from the physical and emotional trauma of my ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy will leave you with a 10 per cent chance of another recurrence and with an uncertainty regards future fertility, but the support from EPI is constant and I know that if I ever need to talk to someone who has been through it themselves or to vent any worries or anger I may have then they are only a click or a phone call away. I thank the Drogheda Independent for introducing this charity to me.

EPI is a registered (CHY 18869) non-profit organistion and depends entirely on fundraising and donations, however big or small. Anyone wishing to donate can do so by sending money to Ectopic Pregnancy Ireland, Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7, or by donating straight to AIB, Sutton Cross, Dublin 13, account 21845067, sort code 93-23-61.