Ectopic Statistics & Other Myth Busting
October 11, 2013
There are a lot of statistics thrown around every day – particularly in medicine. One of my pet peeves is when people, especially doctors who should know better, throw out these statistics without stopping to think about whether or not they apply to the individual patient in front of them.
Here are a few that really bug me.
98% of all ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes and are referred to as “tubal pregnancies.” This leads to the misuse of the two terms as being interchangeable. THEY ARE NOT. A tubal pregnancy is one type of ectopic pregnancy. Not all (2%) ectopic pregnancies occur in the tube. Please do not say tubal when you mean ectopic.
The chance of ectopic pregnancy increases after you’ve already had one. Again, this generally applies to TUBAL ectopics only. Or at least that’s my understanding of the research (which often doesn’t clarify). If you’ve had a non-tubal ectopic pregnancy your chance of having a tubal ectopic pregnancy is not increased. Your chance of having another non-tubal may be increased depending upon your specific circumstance.
Tubal ectopic pregnancies are caused by tubal disease. This only applies to people whose tubal pregnancies were the result of natural pregnancy or IUI. If you had a tubal pregnancy after IVF/FET then you may or may not have tubal disease. Either way, it is not the cause of your ectopic pregnancy.
Why do these things irritate me so much?
The surgeon who took out my right tube wanted to also take out my left. Why? Because she presumed I had tubal disease. She knew my tubal pregnancy was the result of FET and so she assumed I had no need for my tubes. And the statistic was so ingrained in her brain that she didn’t stop to think about whether it made any sense in my case. If she had stopped to think about it LOGICALLY she would have realized that I probably did not have tubal disease. But it was emergency surgery and she had never met me before so perhaps I should cut her some slack. I asked her not to take out the tube and she agreed but only if it looked OK. She looked at it and left it alone.
Sometimes you need to stop running on what you think you know and try to look at it from a new perspective.
I’ve been running in to this same attitude recently with my low iron levels. I have endometriosis. Many women with endometriosis have low iron due to heavy menstrual periods. Ergo, I have low iron because…WAIT. STOP. I’m supposed to be SUPPRESSED right now. So, LOGICALLY, heavy menstrual bleeding is not the cause of my low iron. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to logic that out. But it does require you to stop and think for a second.
Does anyone else have pet peeves about this sort of thing? Anyone else with a rare condition? Or a common condition that is somehow different for you than most? How do you deal with it?