Ectopic pregnancy clarifications

I fully expected to receive some criticism for my post on Ectopic Pregnancy and the Sanctity of Life, and I felt the need to moderate with a heavier hand than usual since many of the negative comments I received on this post seemed to center around the same few misunderstandings.  Although I have no problem with publishing dissenting comments (and I did publish most of them on that post), I felt that it was not helpful to have many angry and upset women using the same straw man arguments against assertions that I never made.  In light of that, I’d like to clarify a couple of points.

Emergency medical care

Many women commented and/or emailed to tell me that my post and my conclusion were dangerous because they had a ruptured tube and nearly died, or would have died had they not sought immediate medical attention.

Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, but I never suggested that a woman with an ectopic pregnancy should avoid medical care, and I certainly didn’t intend that a woman whose tube has ruptured should hesitate to get emergency care. Although tens of thousands of women in the US experience tubal rupture each year and only about 30 die, I never denied that such a situation requires immediate medical attention.

We would personally pursue any treatment for both the mother and the baby that would treat both as viable patients, even if it only gave the baby infinitesimally small odds of survival. We seek to preserve both lives no matter how feeble our efforts are instead of self-consciously ending one life.  At the present, this might mean no more than waiting for surgery until we had an indication that the child had died – a ruptured tube and/or internal bleeding would be a very good sign that it was time to proceed. In the near future, we might have more and better options.

The point was that those of us who call ourselves pro-life and and object to legalized abortion must re-evaluate the practice of automatically terminating an ectopic pregnancy in the hopes of preventing tubal rupture. The advice given to us by the medical community is not generally based upon a Christian view of the sanctity of life, nor is it necessarily borne out in statistics.

Statistics

This brings me to a second misunderstanding that arose in several comments: the source of my statistics. I’m not sure why; I depended heavily upon:

  • the CDC
  • WHO (World Health Organization)
  • well established medical sites which provided references for their information
  • medical journals which provided information on individual cases and other statistics that were otherwise difficult to find
  • big-name online news sources that provided documentation of infant survival stories.
  • Wikipedia was also cited for its broader information, definitions, and multiple additional resources.

Interestingly, those who objected to my statistics either didn’t provide any conflicting information at all, or else they made broad statements without citing any source at all.

And while we’re on the topic of statistics, I think this puts things in perspective:

Many commentors who had experienced ectopic pregnancies were told by their doctors that they were lucky to be alive.

According to the CDC, from 1985-1995 an average of 83 people died in the US each year from lightning strike.  Also according to the CDC, from 1991-1999, an average of 26 people died each year from ectopic pregnancies, from among the 20-40,000 that ruptured each year.

A US resident has a 3 times greater chance of dying by lightning strike than by ectopic pregnancy.

I don’t believe in luck; I believe that God is sovereign over every sparrow that falls, every hair of our heads, and every pregnancy no matter how it begins or ends.  But if I did believe in luck, I would not feel lucky to be alive after an ectopic pregnancy; rather, I would believe that it takes a pretty strong dose of bad luck to be one of those unfortunates who died.

Terminology: Abortion

A third problem was that the use of the term abortion provoked a strong reaction from some readers. Let me remind you that I did not choose the term. That is how the procedure is described in the medical community. I didn’t do it for shock value, but for accuracy. If you find it shocking, maybe this is another reason to reconsider the standard preventative treatment.

The past

Lastly, if you have suffered an ectopic pregnancy in the past and dealt with it by terminating the pregnancy, please understand, I didn’t research and write my post to make you feel guilty about the past.  We have all made poor choices, often under poor advice with the best intentions. If a decision is made in ignorance on our part on the bad or immoral advice of a doctor then the doctor will stand before God for the advice he or she gave. This is why we are warned to “let not many of you become teachers for teachers have a stricter judgment.”

But we are still accountable for our decision, and because all of our decisions are inescapably moral – Christ said you are either with me or against me –there is no neutrality in life.  If any of us makes a decision that is sinful- and preemptively taking an innocent human life is a sin – we must repent.  After all, if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If you have read all of this and you still feel angry, attacked, or condemned by my words, please take a moment to read my Standard Disclaimer.

The Point

I didn’t aim to judge or condemn, but to share some information that I found highly encouraging: that contrary to popular practice and opinion, there is an alternative to automatically and immediately terminating the pregnancy.  Of course, there always was an alternative – but I found great encouragement in seeing the statistics show that once again, the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.

Comments

  1. I have had one ectopic pregnancy. It is hard because there no are no real treatment options. No mother should be asked to choose her own life over the life of her child. The risks are real and scary. I was in pain for about four weeks of my ectopic pregnancy. I had bleeding early on and my progesterone dropped very low. It was assumed that I lost the baby. But the placenta can continue to grow if it isn’t expelled. In retrospect I believe that is what happened to me, but at the time I didn’t want to make any assumptions about the life of my child. I was being monitored closely every two days and harassed to take the shot, and once that window of opportunity passed because of my higher HCg levels, to have surgery.

    The doctors play on our fears and convince us that we will die if we don’t end our child’s life. I couldn’t do it. I kept hoping and praying and waiting on God. In the end, just when pain was getting very serious, God spoke to us through my husband saying that he would help me. The next morning I awoke for the the first time without pain. Three days later showed that my beta had dropped by 30%. It continued to drop daily. It resolved without surgery or Methotrexate.

    I knew the risks well. We temporarily moved in with my in laws to be closer to the hospital. I kissed my children everyday as if it might be my last. It was very scary, but in my mind there was no other option. I was completely unwilling to potentially end my child’s life with surgery.

    I am now pregnant again even though my tubes are completely blocked down the entire length of one and distal 2/3 of the other. The fact that I am even pregnant is a miracle. This is only my second pregnancy in 14 years and my first pregnancy in 7 years.

    I am even firmer in my convictions this time. I have armed myself with the hope of God and I am completely unwilling to kill my child to save my own. I will wait on the Lord and pray. I accept the risks and I understand that I could die. Still I wait on the Lord. No matter what happens, I believe that God will get the glory. He is able to put this baby in my uterus…glory to God. He is able to save my baby if it is in my tube….glory to God. He is able to save my baby if it is in my abdomen…glory to God. He is able to spare my life…glory to God. And even if I die, he gets the glory because of the testimony it will give to the sanctity of life. The only way I can imagine that God doesn’t get the glory is if I kill this child by accepting the standard ectopic “treatment”.

    I wanted to give hope to others: it is not true that 100% of tubal babies die. That is simply not true. I have written a blog post about it. http://ectopicbabyhope.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/hope-for-tubal-pregnancies/

    Thank you for having the courage to speak the truth.

  2. Thank you for this article and the previous one. This is a topic that many Christians are hesitant to address. I remember as a teenager, when I first heard about ectopic pregnancies, wondering what a person would do. Sadly, my first pregnancy was an ectopic. My husband and I cried, prayed, asked our pastors for wisdom, were told there was nothing else to do, and regretfully scheduled a treatment for methotrexate. We had no idea what that was. We had misgivings the entire time, but were assured that there was no other choice. Before we went in the next day, I awoke in severe abdominal pain and my doctor told us to rush to the hospital. I immediately went into surgery, the baby was removed, the tube saved. I was so thankful to still have my tube but struggled with everything. I spent the next 2 years wracked by guilt that I had killed my baby. I knew that the baby would not have lived (it was in the tube about to burst), but I did not want any hand in it. I researched, found very little information, and finally wrote a Catholic OB/GYN about the situation. Maybe she was just trying to make me feel better, but she said that by the time someone is in such horrible pain and the tube is about to burst, the baby would have already died from not being able to grow. It gave me some comfort. I have asked the Lord forgiveness and trust I will see my baby one day.

    The other part of the story is that during this whole process I kept wishing I would have just had a miscarriage. That way I would have no part in it and not feel guilty (that tells you right there that I knew something just wasn’t right). Well, we had 3 children after our ectopic and then found out I was pregnant again. The baby stopped developing and by 10 weeks in, we knew the baby had died. The doctors and most of our friends did not understand why we would not have a D&C. We believed that it would not be honoring to that baby’s body to have it scraped and sucked out. The Lord created that little one, and He has a way of taking care of things in His time. We waited 2 weeks for me to naturally miscarry. Those 2 weeks were an incredibly sad but precious time for me. I am so thankful to have carried that little one! People looked at me like I had 3 heads. All the doctors but one (who was very pro-life) pressured me to have the D&C, family and friends were concerned and weirded out by our decision, everyone was worried about infection. Well, the Lord gave grace to us in those weeks, and finally took that little one from my womb naturally, in our home.

    It is amazing to us how thoughtless we were (and many are) in thinking about life. We have tried to educate ourselves about birth control, the female body, and–most importantly–what God has to say about life. We have now been blessed with four girls which is something this world despises. Four kids??? And they’re all GIRLS??? And you might have MORE??? We’re starting to think that the Lord has really wanted us to learn a few things about the value of life and children. =)

    Thank you again for your articles. They were not condemning at all–just the hard truth. And it is a bitter truth for many of us who have walked this road.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Amber. It’s a road I hope I never have to walk, but it’s good to hear from those who have. We need to seek God’s will wherever we find ourselves.

  3. Robin Pease says:

    Wow! I loved the article about Ectopic pregnancy and the sanctity of life and I loved this follow-up as well. I commend you for your courage to stand for the word of God! For the all-powerful, all-knowing, creator of the entire universe, we certainly do not give Him or his authoritative word enough credit. Too many Christians lean on man’s understanding instead of God. The world likes to scoff at things they do not understand. I pray many who read your blog will come to realize that they need a savior, we all do. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ puts all of this into perspective for me. A hunger for God’s word and His wisdom makes this an easy decision. Abortion is wrong for ANY reason! Keep up the good fight!

  4. I just want to say that this issue has been pressing on my heart for a few weeks. I couldn’t wrap my head around it and had no real reason to right now so I did not investigate further. However, I am a firm believer that we must decide how we will behave in a situation as a believer, based on God’s Word, in order to maintain that stance should the situation ever arise. This way we are less likely to be led astray. I doubt that this was an easy topic for you to address but I think you are right on! Thank you so much for your boldness in Christ so that we may all learn to walk out our own salvations. I don’t always enjoy your blog but I keep coming back daily. Why? Easy! Because the truth you speak challenges me!
    Thank you dear Jesus for loving me too much to leave me just as I am.

  5. Sarah :) says:

    I’m leaving this comment here because it looks like the other post’s comments have been closed…

    My husband (30 years old) WAS an ectopic pregnancy, and I’m pretty sure his mom’s tube did burst (all he can remember is that they both almost died). This was way back in the 80’s. He has been healthy as an ox his whole life.

    There is lots of hope 🙂

  6. I am so happy to find this info. I’ve been reading your blog as often as I can off and on for a while. & hadn’t found this yet. I believe that the medical profession treats most if not all situations this way. The word it in a way that scares people into the most convenient/leas messy scenario for them. Or the one that makes them the most money. I agree that emergency situations require medical care but at least at that point your ready for the extremes they are going to push at you. It doesn’t matter what your medical situation is, DO YOUR RESEARCH & make sure what they tell you is TRUE! I think my doctor would have aborted my baby telling me it was ectopic, even though it wasn’t if she’d had the chance. I started looking for a midwife shortly after the 3rd visit in 2 weeks. Many blessings to anyone carrying an ectopic pregnancy, and prayers that none of us has to. Keep up the good work!

  7. This is SUCH a difficult issue.I had this two yrs ago and it ended in a ruptured tube and internal bleeding.The pain was incredible.I had an operation to remove the left tube as well as ‘the collection of cells’that had implanted there.According to the surgeon that’s all it was.Not a baby.
    I did a lot of reading and understood that it was actually a BABY.Somehow although there have been numerous other miscarriages,this one still hurts and leaves me most upset as I consented to the surgery.It had to be done,..right?
    Since then we have had two healthy,normal pg’s and babies as a result and are thankful to God for allowing that.
    I just can’t understand why we are not meant to feel the loss and the heartache that follows.As if these babies were less human,less worthy?

  8. I agree with your conclusion on ectopic pregnancy. It is difficult for me because my husband and I continue to try despite my severe Endo and damage to my tubes. When/if we conceive, I have a high risk of ectopic since my tubes are thinned in places. So this is a very important issue to me. The good news is that I know what’s going on so I would know to seek medical attention immediately. And as I said, I agree with your conclusion.

    However, your conclusions regarding the statistics are slightly flawed. You said that there is a death rate of 0.25% and “since rates of ectopic pregnancies have continued to increase rapidly while mortality rates for the mothers are decreasing, actual current numbers would look far better: a death toll of 25 (the number reported in 1992, the most recent I could find) would bring the chance of death after rupture down to 1 in 800, or 0.125% (20,000 ruptures divided by 25 deaths).” You did not take into account the fact that the death rates would be much higher if so many mothers did not choose to terminate the ectopic pregnancies early. Mortality rates for mothers are getting lower, in part, because mother’s are being encouraged to abort early on in an ectopic pregnancy. I would imagine that the death rate/risk for someone choosing NOT to abort the pregnancy early would be higher than these figures suggest. So it really isn’t possible to calculate an accurate rate. I’d say there is a higher risk of rupture or even death…especially in a case like my own. But the risk is worth it!

    • ML,
      Actually I think my numbers do take your point into account. I assumed just for the sake of argument that all of the deaths were among those mothers who ruptured before receiving medical attention. This might not be true, but it assumes the worst case scenario for the “watchful waiting” approach – and even so, the death rate remains surprisingly low. However, it’s worth noting that even without intervention or medical care, most ectopic pregnancies resolve themselves as miscarriages with no further harm to the mother.

  9. My first pregnancy was an ectopic. We caught the pregnancy really early, but the doctors had no indication that anything might be wrong….Until I was in a ton of abdominal pain and my uterus was filled with blood. We had a horrible experience with our pro-abortion doctor’s office (although the baby was dead and tube exploded). We heard comments (while still in the hospital) along the lines of “why are you crying.” “You have no right to mourn.” “This wasn’t a baby.”

    We were told at my 6-week post-op check that the doctor “must know” the second we get pregnant so they could “determine where it had implanted and remove it.” Yuck!

    I refused. And, I’m not telling that clinic when (if) I get pregnant again.

    It’s really sad what our pro-abortion society has created. Thanks for your articles. It confirmed what I was thinking- even another tubal rupture is better than killing my baby with my own hands.

  10. Thank you for your post…my Dr. told me on Tuesday 2/10/09 that I had a miscarriage. I had been spotting for 2 weeks and then bleeding for another week. My HCG levels between week 6 & 7 only rose from 1710 on Monday to 1790 on Thursday. I went in on Tuesday (7 weeks pregnant) and had an Ultrasound and they found nothing. That is when the Dr told me I had a miscarriage. He took more blood and called me today (Thursday) and said that my HCG levels are not declining they are at 1860 and that I am probably having an ectopic pregnancy. I am getting a 2nd opinion tomorrow and really appreciate your site. I agree with everything you have said, but it is very hard to stay strong with your convictions when it is you who are going through it and everyone else is telling you that you are wrong.

  11. louisa capell says:

    i dont know you and you dont know me……………….but i thank GOD for you. i thank GOD for this article you have written….i had searched and searched for information on ectopic pregnancy and found nothing except the same cold…”have it removed” ending the pregnancy” type information. it seemed that abortion was the only answer for ectopic pregnancies. i JUST COULD NOT EXCEPT THAT. I DID NOT , AND WOULD NOT END THIS BABIES LIFE.
    i waited, wondering if i would have a rupture or what would happen to me…..to us.
    every one with the exception of my husband wanted me to go to the hospital and have it “taken care of”. the refused to aknowledge that this was a life, that killing it would be abortion.
    i did not rupture, i didnt die, it resolved its self, a large percentage of ectopics do resolve themselves. i am sad…i lost a baby, but i am the only one who can see that…..and i wanted to say thank you for this article.

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