BioNews readers from outside the United Kingdom may be perplexed to read the reams of British press coverage of Sophie, Countess of Wessex's, ectopic pregnancy. After all, one in every 100 pregnancies is ectopic; so Sophie is hardly unusual, in this respect at least.
Intense media interest in all things royal, from the important to the sad to the downright banal, is no great surprise. In order to quench the public's apparent thirst for royal stories, the weekend press was filled with the tiniest details of the unhappy event. But what's more surprising is that it took a royal ectopic pregnancy for the issue to be widely addressed in the newspapers and on television. Thousands of women each year face the danger and distress of ectopic pregnancies. And yet we remain largely ignorant of their relative frequency.
No-one would want to imply that it is commonplace for a pregnancy to end abruptly because the fetus has implanted outside of the womb. Women rightly fear a miscarriage more than an ectopic pregnancy, since the proportion of pregnancies which miscarry is estimated to be between 10 and 30 percent. But ectopic pregnancies do happen and they are not as rare as we might perhaps assume. Besides the inevitable media circus which surrounds any royal story, maybe the one positive feature of this particular event will be its educational value.