Topic: False Pregnancy (Pseudocyesis).
Pregnancy is a beautiful and exciting time for expectant parents, especially the woman. However, sometimes pregnancy doesn’t always end with the anticipated baby, but is actually a false pregnancy.
This is a rare but possible occurrence seen among some women . For these couples they believe she is pregnant, only to find out that her symptoms were caused not by pregnancy, but by something else entirely.
What is False Pregnancy?
False pregnancy is clinically/ medically termed pseudocyesis. This is defined as the belief that you are expecting a baby when you are not really carrying a child. People with pseudocyesis may have many, if not all, symptoms of pregnancy; however there is no actual fetus.
This unusual condition accounts for 1 to 6 out of every 22,000 live births. This phenomenon can even affect men, they can have a false pregnancy. Some men experience a related phenomenon known as couvade, or sympathetic pregnancy. They will develop many of the same symptoms as their pregnant partners, including weight gain, nausea, and backache
What causes False Pregnancy?
The exact causes are still unknown. However recently doctors believe it is caused by psychological and physical issues and suspect that psychological factors may trick the body into “thinking” that it’s pregnant.
When a woman feels an intense desire to get pregnant, which may be because of infertility, repeat miscarriages, impending menopause, or a desire to get married, her body may produce some pregnancy signs (such as a swollen belly, enlarged breasts, and even the sensation of fetal movement).
The woman’s brain then misinterprets those signals as pregnancy, and triggers the release of hormones (such as estrogen and prolactin) that lead to actual pregnancy symptoms.
Some researchers have suggested that:
2. A lack of education,
3. Childhood sexual abuse,
4. Relationship problems might play a role in triggering false pregnancy.
Having a false pregnancy is not the same as claiming to be pregnant .for a benefit (for example, to profit financially), or having delusions of pregnancy (such as in patients with schizophrenia).
Symptoms of False Pregnancy
Women with pseudocyesis have many of the same symptoms as those who are actually pregnant, including:
1. Interruption of the menstrual period
2. Swollen belly
3. Enlarged and tender breasts, changes in the nipples, and possibly milk production
4. Feeling of fetal movements
5. Nausea and vomiting
6. Weight gain
These symptoms can last for just a few weeks, for nine months, or even for several years. A very small percentage of patients with false pregnancy will arrive at the doctor’s office or hospital with what feels like labor pains.
Tests for False Pregnancy
To determine whether a woman is experiencing a false pregnancy, the doctor will usually evaluate her symptoms, perform a pelvic exam and abdominal ultrasound the same tests used to feel and visualize the unborn baby during a normal pregnancy.
In a case of false pregnancy
1. No baby will be seen on the ultrasound, and there won’t be any heartbeat.
2. Sometimes, however, the doctor will find some of the physical changes that occur during pregnancy, such as an enlarged uterus and softened cervix.
3. Urine pregnancy tests will always be negative in these cases, with the exception of rare cancers that produce similar hormones to pregnancy.
4. Certain medical conditions can mimic the symptoms of normal pregnancy, including ectopic pregnancy, morbid obesity, and cancer. These conditions may need to be ruled out with tests.
Treating False Pregnancy
When a woman believes she is pregnant, especially for a period of several months, it can be very upsetting for her to learn that she is not.
Doctors need to gently break the news, and provide psychological support, including therapy, to help the patient with pseudocyesis recover from her disappointment.
Dr. Chudi Ufondu
References & Photo Credits
2. Mayo Clinic.
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