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Cryptic Pregnancies! Can you really be pregnant without knowing?

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We’ve all heard those stories about women going full term without knowing they were pregnant, and face it, we’ve all wondered how this was humanly possible. Well, a ‘cryptic pregnancy’ as it is called isn’t a figment of imagination. It appears to truly occur for some women.

Looking at the statistics, about one in 450 women don’t know they are pregnant until after the 20th week, and about one in 2500 have no idea they are pregnant until they go into labour.

If you’re like me, you find this fascinating. I can easily recall those bouts of morning sickness, the puffy ankles, the soccer kicks, the enormous weight gain. Not to mention, no period! However, women who experience a cryptic pregnancy seem to have little to none of these symptoms, and can even supply a negative pregnancy test.

In fact, just last week a Queensland woman got a massive shock when she arrived at hospital to find she was more than 30 weeks pregnant. It wasn’t until she had an ultrasound that it became obvious. Her partner said, and I quote ‘My jaw hit the floor’. Yep, mine would, too.

Dr Ric Gordon (a North Shore obstetrician, who actually delivered my own little boy) came on Channel Nine’s Today Show to talk about this unsuspecting family and these types of pregnancies. He admits it’s really hard to understand. He said we know a small number of these women will have underlying psychological issues, such as they will actually be denying that they are pregnant. But if you start putting the symptoms together, and if you’re a little bit overweight … if you’ve had irregular bleeding anyway – there are a lot of things that might explain it.

According to The Cryptic Pregnancy Support Group (run by an American women by the name of Suzanne Wheat who says she also had a cryptic pregnancy), cryptic pregnancies tend to happen to women who have a hormonal imbalance. These women may:

  • have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • be experiencing peri-menopause
  • have recently been pregnant and the hormone levels haven’t returned to normal
  • have a very low body fat percentage (as in some female athletes)
  • be using a birth control method that releases hormones into the body.

With this in mind, you might begin to see how a cryptic pregnancy could be possible. But like Dr Gordon says, most women you talk to in the street would find it hard to accept that you could go that long and not feel any movements. Or perhaps these women trade off their symptoms as being gas, or typical back pain. ‘Wow, the patients I see who are pregnant, no, they ain’t got gas,’ he says. “They’ve got real kicks. It’s a tough one to believe.’

But Dr Gordon admits cryptic pregnancies are well-accepted even though it’s hard to research because it’s difficult to distinguish the facts from what people believe is going on in their body. And that’s why the psychiatrists and the psychologists have a field day with these sorts of patients in trying to understand what is going on – the women seem to be able to dismiss their symptoms as something completely different. He suggests that if you are unsure, you really should see your doctor.


So do you have an opinion on cryptic pregnancies? Real? Or too hard to fathom? Perhaps you are one of the one in 450? Or one in 2500? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below…

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  1. Jane Pettit
    Jane Pettit

    Hi Natasha,
    Not all women going though this type of pregnancy is in denial about it. If you look online there are many women who believe they are going through it. Although, not all of them will be.
    I myself I am currently going through it and have known something was going on from the very beginning, since I was having symptoms. Though usual more subtle.
    I feel that it is very important to raise awareness and find support and assistance for these women. Whether they believe they are going through this or are in denial.
    Besides, everyone’s experience is different. Some may have no symptoms at all and have no reason to suspect pregnancy. While others may be on the pill or have an underlying health condition, that makes them believe it’s not possible, so it must be something else.
    We just don’t know. It is becoming more common than people realise and needs to be taken seriously.

    Regards,
    Jane Pettit

    22 May 2019 at 8:11 am Reply
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