Finding out that you’re pregnant regardless of whatever situation you may be in will always be a mixture of so many emotions at once. For me personally, I knew that it was going to be a lot harder due to being diagnosed with Cervical Ectropion/Cervical Erosion in January last year. I wanted to write this post to share my experiences and hopefully find other women who may have gone through a similar situation. Another reason for this post is to share the importance of Smear Tests and Cervical Abnormalities in women who are under the age of 25. The current law in the UK is that you cannot have a Smear Test under the age of 25 and it’s something that I am passionate about changing. Over the last year I have encouraged a handful of women to make that dreaded Doctors appointment, some of which have even had surgery to correct problems they wouldn’t have even discussed if it wasn’t for me opening up on social media so I can’t stress the importance of this post. If you are lucky enough to be offered a Cervical Screening then please make it a priority.
If you’re taking the time to read this then you’re probably wondering what Cervical Ectropion is. It’s all related to abnormal cells that form inside the Cervix, these cells can be created due to a woman’s hormone balance and the use of different Contraceptive pills can be a reason that this can occur. For the majority of women, Cervical Ectropion does not cause any problems and it usually goes away by itself without needing any treatment. Cervical Ectropion can be clearly seen by a nurse when doing a Cervical Screening Test/Smear Test. The simplicity of being able to see and diagnose it straight away is a reason why Smear Tests are so important. Thousands of women healthily live and die with Cervical Ectropion with no signs or symptoms of it but for the women who unfortunately do experience the symptoms, there are options to have treatment/surgery to remove the irregular cells. This procedure doesn’t permanently put an end to Cervical Ectropion, most women who do suffer will have to have the treatment re-done every 8-10 years as the hormones will continue to build up and create more abnormal cells that will need to be removed.
My pregnancy has been far from simple, I wake up every morning and the first thing that I do is check to see if I’m bleeding – even now in my final trimester with less than 12 weeks to go. I don’t think I’ll stop feeling worried about my little girl until she arrives safely. Writing this post has been really beneficial for me as well as emotional, looking back over the last six months really does make me realise how much I have been through. The most important thing throughout this experience has been my babies safety, the months of struggle have been a massive test but it will all be worth it when we finally meet.
When I was 19 I knew that something wasn’t quite right, I was having irregular periods and lots of pains in general and didn’t understand what my body was trying to tell me. My GP always put this down to the Contraceptive Pill that I was taking so over a two year period I tried seven different pills, none of which stopped any of the problems I had been having. The change of hormones from one pill to the next was not great for my body in general – I tried everything from continuing to take my pill daily, to taking pill breaks every time I started to bleed. Every appointment that I would go to involved me sharing my worries and asking if there were any kind of tests or examinations I could be offered. I wanted to check it wasn’t anything more serious but it was always brushed off by the Nurses I had seen but after three long years of questioning, asking and waiting one Nurse finally listened and referred me for an examination.
In January 2017 I went for my first ever Cervical Examination at my Doctor’s surgery with a Nurse, for any woman the first time is embarrassing and frightening as you have no idea what to expect. I took my Mum with me as it was so important to have someone there for support and she definitely made me feel at ease. The Nurse was so kind and we went through some questions beforehand for her to understand why I had been given the appointment. Then it came to the examination which only took about 60 seconds and within that time the Nurse knew exactly what the problem was. Hearing the words Cervical Ectropion did panic me as I had never heard of before and neither had my Mum.
With my diagnosis came months of extensive Doctors and Hospital appointments to check for any other Cervical abnormalities and any signs of pre-cancerous cells. It was a scary few months but fortunately, all of my test results came back clear. I found that all of my appointments came with some form of judgement, in every one I was asked how many sexual partners I had been with and offered an STI screening. Sexual health is a very important subject but I was completely aware that I was clear of any Sexually Transmitted Diseases but obviously allowed them to do the tests as I knew that was one more thing to be ruled out. The appointments involved a lot of discussions about my plans for children and starting a family, they were checking for Endometriosis and making sure that I was prepared for possible struggles with conceiving a baby. At this point I was still finishing my degree so it was a lot to think about. I knew that my fertility was important but it wasn’t on the top of my priority list at that moment in time as I wasn’t actively trying to start a family.
I was put on the waiting list for my treatment and received a date for the first week of March – this was two months before my final University deadline and I knew that I would be healing from the procedure for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Being in the final year of an extremely demanding degree and needing to have the treatment was hard to deal with but I didn’t want to suffer for any longer so decided to have it done. I knew that I would have the added pressure of healing from treatment and creating my collection but most importantly I had a lot of support and found the confidence to discuss it with my University tutors.
On a very anxious morning in March I went to the hospital with my Mum for my procedure, I had tried my best to prepare myself for it but knowing that I had to stay awake during the treatment made me feel very nervous. Unfortunately, when I went into my appointment they gave me the news that the laser equipment used for the procedure was broken and therefore it would have to be completely rearranged which meant that I was back on a waiting list for a number of months. At this point they even tried to convince me to not be put forward for the waiting list and insisted that a lot of women learnt to deal with living with Cervical Ectropion. I had been suffering for three years with no idea what was wrong and I refused to have the opportunity to have the treatment taken away from me, this was not something that I wanted to continue to suffer from. I was obviously upset and knew that it would be a wait to find out when my new appointment would come through but the positive was that I could put all of my concentration into finishing my degree.
In September I finally received a new date through for my treatment, it had felt like such a long wait and I’d still been carrying on struggling with the irregular bleeding and pains. My treatment was due to happen on the 17th of October and I felt positive that everything would be sorted and I would be fully recovered before the start of the new year. The treatment would go ahead as normal as long as I wasn’t bleeding when I went in for it, as the date drew nearer I was feeling more anxious as I hadn’t experienced any bleeding for a few weeks although I had been having horrendous period pains and patiently waiting for it to happen. Which then brings me to find out that against many odds I was expecting a baby. The shock of that alone was enough to panic any 22 year old and finding out a week and a half before my surgery made my head felt like it was going to explode. After nearly a year of an emotional and physical journey, it was the last thing I would have expected to be happening to me. (To read the story of how I found out I was pregnant, take a look at my last post.)
MY FIRST TRIMESTER
The first thing that I wanted to do when I found out about the pregnancy was to make a Doctors appointment, I found out on a Saturday and told my boyfriend on Sunday so we had to wait until the Monday morning to get in touch with my GP. Luckily I called early enough in the morning to get an emergency appointment, I had so many questions that needed answering and I wanted to have the pregnancy confirmed by a medical professional and to discuss what the next steps would be. The Nurse who I saw was lovely but had never even heard of Cervical Ectropion so I tried my best to explain to her what it was. I didn’t know if I could still go ahead with the treatment but I was told it wouldn’t be possible if we went ahead with the pregnancy. The Nurse got in touch with the Early Pregnancy Unit at the Hospital and arranged for us to go for a scan the following day as they needed to check that it wasn’t an Ectopic Pregnancy due to the pains I had been experiencing. She also took did blood tests to be sent off and asked us to book an appointment with the Midwife.
I left the Doctors feeling so many emotions and spent the majority of the day looking online for any information about Cervical Ectropion in pregnancy, I didn’t have much luck finding anything so I had no idea how or if it could affect a pregnancy. Paul and I were still dealing with the shock of the news so everything was completely up in the air and we were yet to tell our parents. That evening we shared the news with our families, I was frightened to tell anyone and was so grateful for Paul as he kept so calm. It was unclear what our scan the next morning would show but it was important for our parents to know what was going on and obviously I wanted my Mum to be with me at the scan as it may not have been positive news.
My first experience with the Early Pregnancy Unit was 5 years ago when unfortunately my sister miscarried a baby, I was there with her at the scan when she was told the news and it’s something that I will never forget. To find out that I was pregnant and to be returning to that same ward and that same room three days later came with a lot of fear that it would be a repeat of the last time I was there. I had tried my best to erase the memory from my mind but as soon as I arrived at EPAU I realised where I was and the memories that were attached to it. I can’t say enough positive things about Midwives of that ward, they were so reassuring and understanding of my situation and they showed me nothing but kindness and care. They had a lot more knowledge about Cervical Ectropion and helped put my mind at ease before they took me in to be scanned. I had experienced an ultrasound scan before due to having my womb and ovaries checked for any pre-cancerous cells but obviously this time there was a sign of the tiniest glimpse of life. They told me that I was around 5 weeks pregnant and that the Embryo looked like it was in the right place and not in my Fallopian Tubes. It was unclear to see whether the Embryo would progress as it was too early to see a heartbeat so we were told that we would need to come back in two weeks to see if anything had developed.
Four days after the scan I woke up bleeding, I was panicking and I had no idea what this meant. Bleeding during pregnancy is obviously a warning sign, so I called 111 and they had me booked in at an emergency Doctors where they did a pregnancy test to check that it was still positive. They said they would send me for an emergency scan to check for an Eptopic Pregnancy but I told them that it had already been confirmed and the baby was in the right place. Due to that, I was told that I needed to wait it out until my next scan at the EPAU. At our 7 week check up scan we saw our babies heartbeat for the first time, this tiny sign of life gave me so much hope that this unexpected miracle baby had appeared against so many odds. Although we had had such an emotional few weeks we knew that we wanted this baby and would just have to pray that the pregnancy would continue without any heartbreak.
Although our baby continued to grow, I continued to bleed meaning more emergency scans and Doctors appointments. At 9 weeks pregnant I had a massive scare and was sure that I was losing my baby, I returned to the EPAU where I was scanned and we saw the baby move for the first time. It was a huge reassurance to see that they were developing although there was so much going on with the rest of my body. Throughout all of my appointments, I was told that I needed to be stress-free until my 12 week scan where everything would be a lot clearer, this was obviously easier said than done. My first trimester was definitely the scariest few weeks I’ve ever experienced, I was at such an emotional low and my body was doing a million things at once. I found it so hard to be positive and was so frightened of miscarrying. Only a very small handful of people knew that I was pregnant so I was extremely anxious being around anyone that I hadn’t told, I felt like I was constantly lying to people’s faces.
The morning of our 12 week scan had finally arrived and I woke up bleeding and in agony. The scan wasn’t until the afternoon but I was wide awake at the crack of dawn in a complete panic. I had been having nightmares for weeks running up to this moment that there would be no heartbeat or something would be seriously wrong. I couldn’t eat and I spent all morning crying so much that I was sick just before we left the house, I had gotten myself into such a state. My body felt so weak and I was struggling to keep the water down that I needed for my scan. For most expectant parents the 12 week scan is the first time they see their baby, for us it was our fifth scan. Seeing our baby made everything worth it and we were actually nearly two weeks further along than had been predicted, we were finally out of our first trimester and we had a picture of our baby that we could keep and show to our friends and families!
MY SECOND TRIMESTER
After weeks of waiting, on Christmas Day we announced our pregnancy on social media. It was so lovely to share the news with friends and family and see how many people were so happy for us! I was glad that we had waited to get to the 16 week milestone before the announcement as the risk of miscarrying had reduced but on Christmas night I started with bleeding and horrendous pains so bad that I felt like I couldn’t walk. The next morning we went to the Maternity Day Ward, we were told that I wouldn’t be offered a scan and instead they would listen in to hopefully hear a heartbeat. Hearing that tiny flutter was such a relief, the Midwives were so lovely and they made it clear that they would probably be seeing me a few more times throughout the pregnancy.
Trips to the Maternity Day Ward had become a fortnightly thing, if I was bleeding I had to go and be checked to make sure that my Cervix wasn’t dilated and to check for any signs of infections. This involved more Cervical Examinations, at this point I had gotten used to the embarrassment of having this done but as it needed to be done by a Doctor it would sometimes be a three to four hour wait before someone was free. The swabbing was extremely painful due to Ectropion being scarring on the inside of the Cervix, so dragging swabs across it caused more bleeding and discomfort for days after having the examinations.
At 18 weeks we had our babies gender confirmed and were over the moon to find out we were having a girl! Seeing her at our private scan and knowing that she was developing perfectly regardless of the problems with my body made me feel so much better and we were finally starting to feel comfortable buying things for her. At our 20 week scan, we saw her again and had the gender double checked just to be safe! The scan showed our baby in a lot more detail so we could see that her internal organs were all functioning properly and again everything was looking just fine. A few days after our scan I started to feel her moving and as the days went on she was moving more and more, that feeling of real life inside of you is completely mad. Although I was still continuing with bleeding and pains it made things so much easier feeling movements and knowing that she was okay.
My pregnancy is under Consultant care which can be decided for many different reasons, for me it’s due to the problems with my Cervix and the Anxiety it has caused. Because of this, I can only give birth to my baby on a certain ward at the Hospital which limits me to options when it comes to my birth plan. The main fears for me are to have a safe birth, I was worried that the problems with my Cervix would affect that but I have been reassured by my Consultant that it won’t be the case. I am willing to do anything to bring my baby safely into the world whether that being a natural birth or a caesarian, whatever needs to happen at that time will be decided.
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is a UK based charity that educates and supports women with Cervical cancer and abnormalities. They have an online and telephone help line with incredibly trained staff members who are there to support women who need advice or just someone to speak to. At times where I have found it hard, they have been a service that has really helped me. There should be no shame in looking for some help and support and to find a source of information and guidance has given me a lot more confidence in myself.
The internet is an incredible tool to bring people together who are going through a similar situation, it can be incredibly reassuring especially at such an emotional time. It can feel like a very lonely place when you find no answers or anything to assure you that everything is going okay and at times I’ve found myself in a massive struggle to not let it affect me. I’ve lost count of the days I’ve spent in bed, too emotional to speak to people or leave my house. Suffering in silence is the worst thing and I’ve realised this over the last few weeks and found the strength to open up to my loved ones about just how low I have felt. Just having a conversation with one person can seriously help and it breaks my heart admitting how ashamed I’ve been of myself throughout this experience.
I’m grateful to say that we have a very active little girl, every movement whether it be big or small makes me feel at ease. I’ve still experienced bleeding and pains but I’ve gotten used to recognising warning signs and knowing when I should be going to the hospital. The past six weeks have brought so much positivity for me, Paul has felt her moving and it’s such a special moment being able to share that with him. She moves so much more when I’m in his company too which means she can recognise his voice, I cannot wait for him to meet her and for us to be a family. This journey is soon coming to an end so I’ve been trying to embrace and love the parts of it that I can, I’m enjoying having my baby girl all to myself whilst we patiently wait for her safe arrival June!
I’m hoping that this post spreads some awareness to any women taking the time to read it, pregnant or not. I would not have wished the complications in my pregnancy on anyone and if I was offered a Smear Test much earlier then I would not have been in the situation that I have been in before and during my pregnancy. I have wanted to write about my experience and hopefully find or help someone in a similar situation. There have been times where I had lost all hope that a positive would come from this pregnancy but I had to find the strength to keep going and praying that my baby would continue to grow. The more my baby grew brought more panic that I would lose her, I felt more connected to her every day and the fear of a life without her had me doubting my ability to carry her safely. It has been a complete rollercoaster of emotions and I couldn’t be more grateful to have the best support system around me to get me through the worst times. If you have any questions about anything I have shared in this post then please feel free to reach out to me and contact me. Please don’t allow yourself to suffer in silence with unanswered questions.