Unknown to many, false pregnancy or phantom pregnancy is a real thing. There is even a proper medical term for it— pseudocyesis! In fact, a significant number of women suffer from it. It is a phenomenon where women believe that they are pregnant when in reality, they really are not.
While it sounds harmless, some women experience it severely. So, what do you do when you or your loved ones go through this horrible phenomenon?
Understanding this condition will help us know what to do when we or the people we know experience it. Here, we will discuss further its causes, symptoms, and indications, and the best way to treat it. Let us start!
What is It All About?
False pregnancy is when a woman believes that she is carrying a baby. She experiences the same symptoms as a pregnant woman.
This phenomenon is not limited to women alone, although most cases involve them. Men may experience an almost similar condition as well. This is known as sympathetic pregnancy or couvade. In such case, they also experience pregnancy symptoms when their wives are pregnant. This is of course, from the term itself, to sympathize.
It has been around as early as 300 BC. Hippocrates, the Father of Western Medicine, has written accounts of 12 women experiencing false pregnancy.
There are also notable women in history who have experienced it. One famous example would be Queen of England, Mary Tudor, back in the 16th century. There were several instances when she believed that she was pregnant.
There are a lot of factors causing this phenomenon. Usually, they are physical and psychological in nature. However, it is important to note that the following are not universally accepted causes by medical professionals. These are all just based on accounts of women who have gone through the situation.
Physical causes may include chemical imbalance. Conditions such as having an ovarian tumor may also contribute.
Psychologically, your mind can trick your body into thinking that it is pregnant. This happens when you have a strong desire to conceive a baby. Factors such as infertility and menopausal stage, and experiences such as miscarriage have something to do with it as well.
Those who suffer from it are usually women who find it hard to accept their reality and are in denial of the things they went or go through. For example, a woman about to enter menopause may still be in denial that she is already reaching that point in her life. This may lead to severe sadness, eventually leading her to trick her mind that she is or might be pregnant. Then, when the symptoms occur— trust me, they really do, the brain easily misreads these symptoms, especially when a woman badly wants to have a baby.
Losing a child could also be a possible cause. It could be so heartbreaking, leading a woman to spiral down and become unstable. Those who have had traumatic experiences are likely to develop false pregnancy as well.
Psychosocial factors also play a role in this phenomenon. Maleducation, marital problems, poverty, and sexual abuse are just some of those that may contribute to false pregnancy.
It is important to note that this condition is not similar to claiming that you are pregnant just to use it for your own advantage. There is a fine line between these two situations. It is also not the same as having delusions of pregnancy, as such is the case among women with certain mental health problems.
Moreover, it is not the same as having a false pregnancy test result. When you find out that you are not really pregnant after your pregnancy test indicated positive, that is it. It would not have the same effects as a false pregnancy.
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms are similar to symptoms of pregnancy.
These may include the following:
- Darker nipples;
- Fetal movement sensation;
- Interrupted or irregular menstrual cycle;
- Milk production;
- Tender breasts;
- Weight gain;
- Among others
One of the most common and most obvious symptom is abdominal distension. In this case, a woman’s abdomen expands just like how it would during real pregnancy. So, a woman would really look like she is pregnant! However, it is possible that the expansion is just caused by a buildup of fat, gas, and/or urine. A general anesthesia would help resolve the issue, allowing the abdomen to return to its normal size.
Depending on the severity of the case, these symptoms may last for weeks or months. It is normal for women to be in denial. In rare extreme cases, they may even last for up to nine full months. Women in these cases may even experience what feels like labor pains!
Determining False Pregnancy
To determine whether you are going through the phenomenon or not, you need to consult your physician. Of course, if you believe that you are pregnant, you need to seek medical help nonetheless.
Your physician needs to evaluate the symptoms. First, you need to undergo a thorough physical exam. This should include a pelvic exam, which will determine if there was any type of conception. Then, you need a urinalysis to verify. The test result should be negative unless you are suffering from certain conditions. There is a rare cancer releasing the same hormones as pregnancy.
The foolproof method is an ultrasound. It is the only test guaranteed to indicate whether or not you are really pregnant. You will be able to see whether or not there is a life forming inside of you. In some severe cases of false pregnancy, the ultrasound result may show softening of your cervix, a physical change occurring in real pregnancy. Sometimes, the only really difference between a fake and real pregnancy is fetal presence.
There are some medical conditions sharing the same symptoms as pregnancy. These include cancer, morbid obesity, among others. So, these must be ruled out as well.
Motherhood is one of the best things about being a woman. So, we have to understand that pregnancy is truly an exciting phase in a woman’s life. Imagine your joy when you were pregnant with your first born.
When you are truly pregnant, you get to savor the nine months with your baby coming into life inside of you. Despite the difficulties it brings, it is definitely worth it. You cannot wait until you finally hold him or her into your loving arms for the first time.
So, imagine having this happiness taken away from you once you find out that you are actually not having a baby. It is not gonna happen, at least not now nor anytime soon. It is painful.
It is truly a delicate situation. If you know someone experiencing false pregnancy, you need to be as gentle as possible.
The physician may break the news gently to a patient, but she still needs all the emotional support she can get from her family and friends. There is no telling how long it will take for someone to recover from such devastation. The most important thing is that women experiencing this should never be left alone nor feel alone.
After finding out, they should undergo psychological exams to make sure that there are no underlying neurological conditions. Therapy will also play an important role. It will help them process their thoughts and emotions without falling further into instability. Breakdowns might also become frequent, so seeking professional help is really necessary.
Currently, it is impossible to treat it with medications. Since there are no medically accepted causes yet, physicians cannot recommend any type of support other than psychological.
TO SUM IT UP…
With the accessibility and availability of accurate pregnancy tests nowadays, cases have relatively decreased over the past couple of years. However, due to the many unknown variables relevant to this case, it is still important to remain cautious.
We need to have a solid understanding of why it possibly happens. We need to be aware of the symptoms and how we could treat it. This is especially true if we know someone suffering from it. Hopefully not, but any of us could experience it as well. While it has become a very rare case today, there is still no guarantee that we will be spared.
If you know someone challenged with this phenomenon, just be there for her. Women dealing with it needs to be surrounded by caring people who will look after their well-being and make sure that they get better.
Did you encounter this situation before? How did you handle it? Tell us your story! You might just encourage other readers going through the same thing.
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