False pregnancy

Doctors are sometimes visited by women that have all the symptoms of pregnancy without actually having a fetus. How can a false pregnancy be explained?

Doctors’ offices are sometimes visited by women presenting all pregnancy symptoms (lack of menstruation, breast tenderness, nausea, etc…) without actually being pregnant. This psychological phenomenon is called pseudocyesis or false pregnancy. But how can a woman who is not pregnant see her body start changing without there being an actual baby?

The reasons

False pregnancies mainly affects young girls, women and older man and happens when a woman has convinced herself she is pregnant and the hormones kick in to cause symptoms that are the same as during a regular pregnancy.

There are many reasons that a woman might be convinced she is pregnant when she really is not. These reasons can be physical, like if she suffers from a hormonal disorder causing a lack of menses. They can also be psychological and caused by an intense desire to have a child or by an uncontrollable fear of getting pregnant.

According to WebMD, false pregnancies occur in about 1 to 6 of 22 000 live births.

Like during a normal pregnancy, symptoms of a false pregnancy may vary from one woman to another. They will also usually have the same symptoms as a pregnant woman and may feel these symptoms for several weeks, months or even years:

  • Lack of periods
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Spasms in the stomach
  • Increasing volume of uterus or breasts
  • Breasts tenderness and milk production
  • Weight gain

If you have these symptoms, you should consult a doctor who will be able to help you determine your actual state by first doing a pregnancy test and other exams such as an ultrasound to find out the treatment best suited to you.

If it is indeed a false pregnancy, a doctor or gynecologist may prescribe you the most appropriate treatment depending on your history or refer you to a psychiatrist if they think you could benefit from more help.

If you are currently suffering from a false pregnancy, it’s important for you to remember you’re not going crazy. You just need to take care of yourself and have the right support around you so you can get better.

Sources: Grossesse nerveuse, Wikipédia : Pseudocyesis, WebMD : False pregnancy, Pubmed Central Canada – Pseudocyesis versus Delusion of Pregnancy

Image de Mariem Melainine

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