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Cryptic Pregnancy, A Confused Pregnancy!

The term cryptic pregnancy is used by medical professionals to describe a pregnancy that is not recognized by the person who is pregnant until they are in labor or have given birth.[1] However, the term is also being used online for a special form of false pregnancy (pseudocyesis), or delusion of pregnancy, or phantom pregnancy, in which a person who has no medical verification of pregnancy, including biologically male individuals, believes that they are pregnant, sometimes for years.


Medically cryptic pregnanciesEdit

The television series I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant[2] shared the stories of women who had experienced medically cryptic pregnancies. They didn't realize they were pregnant until they were in labor or had given birth. Nearly all the featured stories involved women who continued to have their period as usual throughout their pregnancy, while some cited not having regular periods due to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or other conditions that are associated with infertility. The women involved often did not gain weight, or experience the "symptoms" of pregnancy such as weight gain, morning sickness, or tender breasts. Those who did experience some symptoms of pregnancy either claimed to attribute the symptoms to an existing condition, claimed to have taken a home pregnancy test and gotten a negative result, or both.

A few of the stories involved women who had known they were pregnant and experienced an early miscarriage, only to realize they were still pregnant when the baby was being born. It is common that after the birth the new parent looks back and realizes that there were some signs of pregnancy they had ignored. For women who have had a typical pregnancy, the assumption is that there is no way to not "feel" a pregnancy. However, obstetricians on the show explained that, depending on the position of the placenta, the sensations of a baby moving can be minimal. In 2015, the show's spin off, "I Still Didn't Know I Was Pregnant", featured women who had experienced multiple medically cryptic pregnancies.[3]


The causes of medically cryptic pregnancies are either physiological, that is, there were no recognizable symptoms of pregnancy, or can be due to psychological problems. For example, denied pregnancy is a condition in which a woman is mentally unable to accept that she is pregnant and so may go part way or all the way through a pregnancy unconscious of her pregnancy. In some cases, that is linked to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia[4]. However, denied pregnancy is rare, Web MD cites that 1:400-500 pregnant women get to the fifth month of pregnancy before realizing they're pregnant and only 1:2,500 will go all the way to labor. [4]


The major concern with medical cryptic pregnancies is a lack of prenatal care. This may result in harm to both developing fetus and the pregnant woman. A cryptic pregnancy does not allow the woman who is pregnant to prepare emotionally for parenthood, nor to decide if they want to be, or are ready to be, a parent. This could lead to in increased risk of child neglect or abuse.[citation needed]

In historyEdit

Pope Joan, a character from 14th century European literature, is said to have been a pope during the 9th century in the guise of a man, until she went into labor while on procession. Though modern scholars consider her to be a fictional character, it shows a recognition of medically cryptic pregnancies in the European Middle Ages.


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