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    Showing Signs Of Pregnancy, But NOT Actually Pregnant – What Is Phantom Pregnancy?
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    phantom pregnancy
    10 November 2017

    Showing Signs Of Pregnancy, But NOT Actually Pregnant – What Is Phantom Pregnancy?

    6 mins read
    for Pregnancy
    2409 engaged
    There is such a vast difference between lovemaking for pleasure and actually trying to conceive. The former is quite fun while the latter can be quite the opposite with all the things you and your partner have to keep in mind! And to make it harder, there is something that is known as phantom pregnancy – showing signs of pregnancy but not actually being pregnant!


    Pregnancy is exciting – creating a whole new little life is a big responsibility and that automatically turns babymaking into an important “task”. The good part is that you and your partner will come a lot closer, bonding more as you try and create something beautiful together. Then comes the waiting phase- the anticipation of conception can be stressful for some. 

    Most women try and read up on signs of early conception, during this phase of waiting to watch their bodies for any changes associated with pregnancy. However, pregnancy and it's signs may not always lead to a baby being formed. Confused?

    What is a Phantom Pregnancy?

    A phantom pregnancy is said to occur when a woman believes that she is pregnant, but later is shown that her symptoms were not caused by an actual pregnancy. This phantom pregnancy, false pregnancy or pseuocyesis is a strange phenomenon but a real one nonetheless. Women with pseudocyesis believe that they are expecting a baby when they aren't. What's more absurd is that their bodies too develop actual pregnancy symptoms! 

    Note: Remember, phantom pregnancies must not be confused with Cryptic Pregnancies, where there actually is a baby growing without the mother's knowledge.

    What Are The Causes Of Phantom Pregnancies

    Only recently have doctors begun to figure out what causes such a strange phenomenon. While the exact cause is still a mystery, doctors suspect that psychological factors may actually trick the body into 'thinking' it is pregnant! We all have heard how powerful the brain is. Here are some possible causes of this phenomenon:
    • Previous miscarriage
    • Infertility
    • Loss of a child
    • Mental breakdown

    What Are The Symptoms Of Phantom Pregnancy?

    When a woman feels a strong desire to have a child, perhaps due to infertility issues, past miscarriages, proximity to menopause or similar reasons, her body may show some of the regular pregnancy signs such as a swollen belly and enlarged breasts.

    In some cases, women have even felt fetal movement! Isn't it amazing (and quite frankly scary) what our minds can convince our bodies to do? The woman's brain misinterprets those signals as an actual pregnancy  and triggers a release of certain hormones like estrogen and prolactin, which lead to pregnancy symptoms.

    The symptoms of false pregnancies include:
    • Swollen belly
    • Enlarged breasts/ tender breasts
    • Change in nipple size
    • Possibility of lactation
    • Feeling of fetal movement
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Weight gain
    • Food cravings and food repulsion
    • Uterus enlargement
    • Some women also experience a false or phantom labour.
    These symptoms can last for a few weeks, for the entire 9 months or even a few years! A small fraction of patients with false pregnancies have in the past arrived at hospitals with what they believed were labour pains!

    What Kind Of Women Are More Likely To Have False Pregnancies?

    You could be at greater risk of a phantom pregnancy in the following cases:

    • Women who are desperate to conceive are the most likely to have pseudocyesis
    • People with childhood trauma too stand a chance to have a false pregnancy
    • Women who are on drugs that increase prolactin levels may also get the illusion of pregnancy

    How Common Is Phantom Pregnancy?

    In every 22,000 pregnancies, false pregnancies occur 1-2 times. Shockingly, this condition is not restricted only to women. It can also occur in men, in children, in the elderly and is quite common in certain animals like dogs and mice. In animals, it is termed as pseudopregnancy.

    Female dogs that go through this phase, tend to form a bond with a cuddly toy or even a person in the household and stay close to them as though they are puppies.

    How Do They Not Know?

    If you are wondering how it is possible for a woman to not know that the pregnancy is false or even wondering how a doctor wouldnt point it out earlier, we're not suprised. However, women with pseudocyesus are SO sure that they are pregnant that 18% doctors checked the hormone levels and treated it as an actual pregnancy.

    What Are The Tests Taken To Identify False Pregnancy?

    If a woman believes she is pregnant, the doctor will evaluate her symptoms. He will perform an ultrasound of her abdomen and also perform a pelvic exam. These tests are standard tests for real pregnancies as well, to help visualize the growth of the foetus. In the case of a false pregnancy, there will be no baby seen on the ultrasound and there will be an absence of a heartbeat. In a false pregnancy, despite the symptoms, a urine pregnancy test will most likely be negative.

    An ultrasound remains the most foolproof way of identifying a phantom pregnancy. The doctor will also check for ectopic pregnancy (where the baby grows outside of the uterus). Urine tests may sometimes show as positive if the patient has cancer cells present. Certain cancer cells release the hormone HCG which is also the hormone that most pregnancy tests pick up on.

    How To Treat A False Pregnancy

    Learning that you are not pregnant after you have believed to be for several months, can be very upsetting for a woman. Doctors need to handle the new with sensitivity and care and also make arrangements for psychological support during this time. Pseudocyesis is treated as a psychological condition as it is more likely to occur in women who have had emotional troubles.

    In some cases, women will be prescribed anti-depressants or psychiatric medication. For women whose periods have stopped may be prescribed certain hormonal medication to regulate their mestrual cycle again.

    If you have experienced this or know anyone who has, know that there is help and support available at all times. It can be highly devastating to learn that you are not pregnant but remember that this does not mean that pregnancy at a later stage is not possible. With the correct guidance from a trusted medical practitioner and the support of your spouse, close friends and family, you can get through this phase.

    Remember to not give up, love yourself and put your health (both mental and physical) first!

    Phantom pregnancy

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