When I had my first ectopic pregnancy, I realised that – if I had had this decades earlier, or with a different, less vigilant, less suspicious GP who might have misdiagnosed me – then I might have died. If I had been living a century earlier, I would almost certainly have died. When I had my second ectopic pregnancy, the doctors were concerned that, because of the location of my pregnancy, if it grew too large and ruptured, I could/would bleed out before I could get to the hospital. So I was hospitalised for a week. During that time, the doctors suspected I might have a pregnancy-related cancer - choriocarcinoma - also known as trophoblastic disease. A few months later, during a surgery to remove the last of the pregnancy tissue, there was still a risk that I might bleed out, as I had developed a new, large vein. A nurse helpfully told me how nervous my surgeon was about the surgery, and how many bags of blood he had ordered. (In the end he cancelled the surgery, opting for another procedure first, to reduce the risk of haemorrhage).
On the ectopic site, we frequently told women suspected of or diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy who were displaying concerning symptoms that they needed to ensure that they were not left alone. Collapse and bleeding out was always a possibility. Many women are rushed to hospital for emergency surgery with an ectopic pregnancy. They are often later told by their surgeons that they were “lucky,” even though they didn't feel lucky at all, and that they were only an hour away from dying. (Later, they will often report PTSD-like symptoms.)
One of the reasons ectopic pregnancy (or other serious pregnancy-related or gynaecological conditions) can be so traumatic is that, for many of us, it is the first time we have had a serious health condition, often our first time in hospital, our first surgeries, and our first potentially fatal condition. Sometimes it hits us straight away, and sometimes we don’t react to the reality of this till later, depending how we've dealt with the competing grief and immediacy of a loss of a pregnancy. Each time I was told of the dangers of my condition, I was more upset about the lost pregnancy and the fact that these continuing issues might put an end to attempts to conceive, than about the dangers to my life. It didn't seem possible that pregnancy could kill me - not in the 21st century!
But in due course, it is possible to reflect. I had been lucky. I didn't die, though I could have. Good health care meant that I was fine. But I had come face to face with my own mortality. I realised that my previous lucky good health didn't protect me or guarantee freedom from danger in the future. I had been on the wrong side of the odds – 1 in 400,000 (for the particular type of ectopic I had the second time) – and so suddenly, being that “one” seemed very possible. I realised that I faced danger everywhere in life. Initially it made the world a scary place.