When I first discovered that I was going to need a D&C procedure, the first thing I did was hop online and read all I could about it. I also did the same once I discovered it was an ectopic pregnancy. I wanted to recreate my experience here as a resource for others who may find themselves going through the same scary things, and answer some questions I’ve been getting as well and create a timeline of events.
Tuesday, February 7th: The whole debacle started when I finally went to see my doctor. I had been bleeding for about two weeks at that point and figured it was worth having checked out. The nurse had me give a urine sample to check for pregnancy “just in case.”
As I mentioned, the FIRST words out of my doctor’s mouth when he came in were that my pregnancy test was positive which was a total and complete shock. He then gave me an exam and answered the difficult question that I was most certainly miscarrying. He then sent me with instructions to get my blood taken immediately after leaving, then again 48 hours later.
So I got my blood taken right after my appointment.
Wednesday, Februay 8th: I heard from my doctor first thing in the morning regarding my first blood test. My HCG levels (pregnancy hormones) were at 57 which means you are pregnant, but the levels are really low. A reading of 50 is the minimum for a pregnancy.
Thursday, February 9th: I went for my second round of blood work.
Friday, February 10th: I was anxious ALL morning waiting for a call from my doctor and left several messages with the nurse. Around lunch time, my doctor finally called. My levels went up to 59. When you’re experiencing a normal pregnancy, your levels should be doubling every 48 hours so my doctor was concerned. He said this was very abnormal, and that he would have preferred to see them drop than to see them go up so slowly. I was then instructed to go for blood work AGAIN on Monday for more blood work.
Monday, February 13th: I went for my third round of blood work.
Tuesday, February 14th: My doctor called me early in the morning to tell me that my levels had gone up to 81… again, very abnormal. They should have been doubling and tripling by the day. He believed I had a blighted ovum, but thought there was a slight chance for an ectopic pregnancy. He told me I would need a D&C, and the sooner the better.
I was given the option of having it done either in the office or at the hospital. I chose the hospital because you get knocked out completely with anesthesia in the hospital, whereas in the office, it’s just an oral medication and he said I might still be able to feel it. It’s actually a good thing I ended up choosing the hospital because they were able to test my tissue immediately and diagnose the ectopic pregnancy. More on that later.
Shortly after hanging up with my doctor, I received a call from the surgical scheduler who told me I would get my procedure done the very next day at 11:30. I couldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight and needed to report in at 9:30. I heard later from the hospital confirming my appointment, and then heard from my doctor once more around dinner to check in on me. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be performing my procedure because he wasn’t the on-call doctor at the hospital that day. He asked if I wanted to come in and meet the doctor who would be beforehand, but luckily, I had had an appointment with her once when I was pregnant with Caleb and felt comfortable with her.
Wednesday, February 15th, D&C day: We spent nearly the whole day at the hospital, from 9:30 to around 4:30. When we arrived, Jerry and I checked in, filled out some forms, signed some things, and then were sent up to a surgery waiting room which was altogether odd and just filled with people. After a brief wait, we were brought back to a room (just curtained off) where I got changed into my beautiful gown, socks, and “party” hat and met with the nurse, doctor, and anesthesiologist. They prepped me for surgery, answered our questions, and put a line in my hand that would be used for the anesthesia. A bit later, Jerry was sent back to the waiting room and I was being wheeled back to the operating room on a bed. It was at this time that I started to feel really anxious… it was pretty scary.
The D&C: They wheeled me into a huge, cold room with bright lights. I had to move from the bed onto an operating table/bed and put my feet in the stirrups. A tech of some sort was prepping things and covered me with a warm blanket. Then I guess the anesthesiologist started working his magic because my eyes started getting really heavy. The last thing I remember was having the ugly mesh hospital underwear cut off and the tech being funny and saying they were Victoria’s Secret and that patients always fight over them. I chuckled and told her I remembered them from when I gave birth, and that was it. I was out. The next thing I remember was being woken up: “Stephanie, you’re all done.” My glasses were magically back on my head and I started blinking slowly and asking the doctor questions, but luckily, nothing too embarrassing.
“How long was that?”
“About 10 minutes.”
“How long do you have to be on call for?”
“Have you ever delivered triplets?”
“In residency, I did, but not lately. I deliver a lot of twins though!”
Recovery: I was really foggy and out of it. They were waiting for a post-op recovery room to open up for me. I remember them saying it was taking a long time, but everything seemed to happen in just a minute in my foggy brain. I believe about 45 minutes later, there was a room for me. They brought me back to post-op which was just a bunch of curtained off stalls with beds. Jerry met me there and we spent a couple of hours there with a really sweet nurse. I was extremely nauseous, but surprisingly, was not in pain. The anesthesiologist gave me two different anti-nausea meds which kicked in fairly quickly. Phew!
So that was it for the D&C procedure part. It was quick and painless, to my shock and delight. I really had nothing at all to worry about in that regard. I remember NOTHING about it and for that, I am so grateful and relieved. We also asked the doctor more about the procedure in advance and were happy to find out they don’t do any scraping. She said they use a suction instead because a pregnant uterus is very sensitive. I’m guessing this was why there was no pain, even after the fact.
The Ectopic Pregnancy: So now onto the ectopic pregnancy part. The reason I needed a D&C was to determine whether or not I was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy and to stop the bleeding. After the D&C, the tissue that was removed from my uterus was sent to the lab for testing. The doctor came back with results fairly quickly, and we were all shocked by them. The tissue from my uterus was NOT pregnancy tissue. The reason this means it’s ectopic is because if you’re pregnant, the pregnancy tissue should be in your uterus, but if it’s NOT in your uterus, that means it’s somewhere else. Any pregnancy outside of the uterus is not viable. Most likely, the pregnancy was in my fallopian tube which is really scary. If it’s not caught early enough, the embryo will keep growing and can rupture your tube and even lead to death. I am so grateful that I decided to make the call to my doctor when I did to get checked out. Who knows what could have happened if I hadn’t.
Now that I had the diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy, more needed to be done. Often, the tube will need to be surgically removed, but if caught early enough, it can be treated with a Methotrexate injection which is the route we took. Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug used to stop cells from dividing. They use this to get the pregnancy to re-absorb in your body and stop growing. First, they did some more blood work (do I have any blood left???) to check my organs and HCG levels again. Everything came back fine, and my HCG levels had dropped from 81 to 50. It was safe for me to get the injection. Again, another wait while the pharmacy prepared it and then a nurse from the cancer unit (I think?) came to inject it. I had it injected (two injections) in my hip and it was a bit painful, but not too awful. I had the option of hip or arm.
Finally, around 4:30 we began the discharge process. I was instructed to stop taking prenatal vitamins and Ibuprofen for the time being. I was also considered impaired for 24 hours due to the anesthesia and would need to avoid the sun due to the Methotrexate. Oh, aaaand, I also needed to get MORE blood work done in the coming days. This is to test the HCG levels and ensure they are going down and that the pregnancy is ending (again, they don’t want the tube to rupture from a growing pregnancy).
So here’s the rest of the timeline for now, until I find out more at my appointment this week.
Saturday, February 18: I went for blood work.
Tuesday, February 21: I will go for more blood work.
Wednesday, February 22: I have a follow up appointment with the doctor to look at the levels and check my recovery. We’re not sure yet what the next step will be after that, but I will be sure to update you all.
How I’m Feeling: Physically, I am feeling okay in the days after my procedure. I’ve suffered from some fatigue, headaches, sore throats, coughing, constipation (TMI?), and insomnia, but all are normal side effects from the Methotrexate. I also have a wicked bruise in the crook of my arm from all the blood draws. Yuck. I think I need to switch arms. My hand is also a little puffy, bruised, and tender where they had the needle in it for the anesthesia. I’m doing well for the most part though and am most anxious for the headaches to subside. Emotionally, it’s hit or miss. Some days are better than others. Some days, I feel confident we will have another little one with no problem, and other days I am certain we will have trouble. Some days, I am so sad and down, and other days I feel positive and not scared at all.
That’s where everything stands right now. We’re hoping to have more answers after Wednesday. We’re definitely feeling unsure because ectopic pregnancy is pretty rare and dangerous, and I have ZERO of the risk factors that typically cause it. I know there aren’t always answers though, and all we can do is pray and hope for a healthy baby next time.
Thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions; I will answer them as best I can. I am obviously no expert, but I’m happy to share my own personal experience. We have had so much wonderful support and kindness from everyone in our lives. I know many people won’t talk about their pregnancy loss, but I chose to so that we can remember our baby, and so that others experiencing the same won’t feel so alone. Writing is also a way for me to heal. Thank you all for your well wishes, thoughts, prayers, kind words, comments, emails, and everything else – it truly means more than you know.