Amidst the World Cup hubbub, former U.S. soccer star and Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo is speaking up about a serious topic: her experience having a miscarriage with one twin and an ectopic pregnancy with the other.
In Elle’s July 2019 issue, Solo discussed multiple facets of her life including the miscarriage she had in February 2018 when she was running for president of the United States Soccer Federation.
Solo thought she’d only been pregnant with one child when she experienced a miscarriage at home. But after going to the doctor due to the intense pain afterward, she learned there was another egg. This one was an ectopic pregnancy, or when a fertilized egg attaches itself outside of the uterus rather than in the uterus, where it’s supposed to grow. Ectopic occur in 1 out of every 50 pregnancies, according to the American Pregnancy Association, and can be dangerous if not treated quickly enough.
“The doctor said I was hours from dying,” Solo told Elle. “They ended up having to remove my fallopian tube.”
Fallopian tube removal is a common treatment for ectopic pregnancies
Since a fertilized egg is unable to develop outside of the uterus, it has to be removed along with any damaged tissue to prevent damage to the person’s reproductive system. If the egg were to remain outside of the uterus, it could grow and rupture the fallopian tube and cause heavy bleeding, according to the Mayo Clinic. If left untreated, the severe bleeding can lead to death.
Sometimes, a medication called methotrexate can be used to help the person’s body absorb the pregnancy tissue outside of the uterus and potentially save the fallopian tube where the egg attached. But often, removing the fallopian tube like Solo’s doctors did is the only way to treat the ectopic pregnancy.
The fallopian tube removal procedure Solo described in the Elle profile is a common treatment for women who have ectopic pregnancies because the fallopian tubes are the most common place for ectopic pregnancies to happen. (Less often, ectopic pregnancies occur in the ovary, abdominal cavity, or cervix, according to the Mayo Clinic.) The fallopian tube removal surgery requires doctors to cut open the abdomen.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are similar to a regular pregnancy, like a missed period, but also include abnormal vaginal bleeding, low back pain, pain in the abdomen or pelvis, and cramping on one side of the pelvis.
Some people are more at risk for ectopic pregnancies than others
There is no way to prevent an ectopic pregnancy, but some people are more at risk for having one than others.
People with histories of sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea or chlamydia, for example, may have inflammation that increases their risk. Smoking, fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization, and getting pregnant while having an IUD birth control device can also increase a person’s risk for ectopic pregnancy.
To prevent these risks, the Mayo Clinic’s website recommends abstaining from smoking, limiting your number of sexual partners, and having protected sex to prevent the spread of STIs.
Similarly, miscarriages are not preventable, but people who have diabetes, use drugs or alcohol while pregnant, or are overweight or underweight have an increased risk for having a miscarriage.
You can still get pregnant after having an ectopic pregnancy
Still, having a healthy pregnancy after an ectopic pregnancy is not impossible. According to the American Pregnancy Association, if a person’s fallopian tubes are both still intact after an ectopic pregnancy, they have a 60% chance of having a successful pregnancy in the future.
As for Solo, she told Elle that she started the process of in vitro fertilization in the hopes of starting a family soon.