The Anatomy of an Ectopic Pregnancy


Presenting — the anatomy of my ectopic pregnancy, i.e. a pretty visualization of my last couple of months of hell. I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for a while. I’m weird, I know. It’s hopefully relatively self-explanatory — red bars are bleeding (with pretty-fied,  realistic colors), blue are the meds, progesterone in purple, and of course, the all important HCG in black.

The highlights:

  • Damn, this whole ordeal took forever. Start to end was 78 days. That’s 2.5 months!
  • The bleeding was like twice as heavy as a normal period. Cramped like crazy though. Good to know for a hopefully never-again-occurring next time.
  • What goes up must come down — HCG rises pretty fast. Once the methotrexate kicked in, it lowered pretty fast too though towards the end, there was some sort of half life effect going on.
  • The progesterone dropping — that should have been a sign that something wasn’t right. Later on, I found out that increasing HCG not accompanied by a corresponding increase in progesterone is one of the warning signs for an ectopic.
  • It’s strange to me just how long I would have tested as pregnant after I wasn’t. It took an entire month after the first shot to be fully un-pregnant. Is that a thing?
  • Apparently the starting HCG of ~10 is on the low side and often does not correlate to success (according to my RE). Something to keep in mind for the future.
  • It all looks so innocuous in all these pastel-y spring-y colors.

I’ve been getting more and more into these personal data visualizations (I hesitate to call them analyses on a sample size of .. me). But also, during the last few months, I realized that I didn’t have enough of a sense of what was going on for my own comfort. I didn’t have a sense of a baseline or what to expect. Anything I read/was told went all over the place. For example, bleeding could last anywhere from a week to 6 weeks. That’s an awfully wide range.

At any rate, this (and the lack of any tracking app/software for this type of thing) was the impetus for me to start building my own tracking — I turned to my trusty raw text files and R for the plotting (clearly, I’m very high tech). Obviously it’s not perfect (yes, I know that multiple axes are a bad idea) but I liked how it gave me a high level visualization of what was going on with my body. And it made a ridiculously shitty experience into, not a positive experience, but at least an interesting one.


17 thoughts on “The Anatomy of an Ectopic Pregnancy

    1. I’m a computer scientist by training so more of this is just me futzing with graphing. For the technical details: the data is stored in comma separated text and then I used R/ggplot to create the chart. The code is super specialized right now but I might spend some time trying to make it a little utility that people can use.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Here from Mel’s Round-up. I’m very sorry for your loss. I had two ectopics and volunteered for the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust for six years, and never thought of doing this and I never saw a similar graphic. It’s a great idea to put it in a visual like this. Ectopics are all so different, but gave some similar features, and it would have been a great way to show these. That final conclusion though its always bitter sweet – knowing you’re no longer pregnant, but being pleased the ordeal is over. I wish you well.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Here from the Round-up. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. The chart is really well done – I think it captures the timeline of an ectopic better than anything else I’ve seen. Ectopics suck for so many reasons – with the potential for serious complications being the main one – but the long duration of the loss is horrible too.

    Liked by 1 person

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