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Pseudocyesis: Pregnant without a baby

Alice has been married for eight years, but she and her husband did not start trying for a child until two years later. During the first few months, it all seemed like their family would have a new addition. The first year went by without a child in the picture, but they did not think too much of it.

“Probably this was their lucky year, and you know what they say, the third try is a charm,” this they thought during the third year. Meanwhile, in all those years of waiting, they have had a lot of doctor visitations. They even had to consider the fertility clinic. The artificial method just would not cut it for them, especially when they have some debts to settle.

Fast forward to the year 2020, the eighth year they’ve been married, it seemed their waiting days were over. Alice looked rounder around the belly, had been having an irregular flow, she has had lazy days lately coupled with tenderness of the breasts.

She did have a conviction that she was pregnant, and told her husband and sister about it. After her latest pregnancy test at the hospital came back negative, her whole world seemed to shatter. Alice, however, continued to insist she was pregnant despite having ten negative pregnancy tests over 3 months. She pointed to her daily vomiting and irregular period as proof of pregnancy. Was Alice pregnant? No, she only had what Medicals call Pseudocyesis.

What then is Pseudocyesis?

Pseudocyesis is the feeling of being pregnant when indeed the woman is not. Just like Alice, the affected woman might experience some clinical signs and symptoms associated with pregnancy. Other names for Pseudocyesis are False pregnancy or Phantom pregnancy. This condition is most common in women in their 20s or 30s.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of Pseudocyesis are practically the same with those of a true pregnancy, and might even confuse doctors before the pregnancy test.

Symptoms of pregnancy include tenderness (pain) of the breasts, irregular menstrual flow or even the lack of it, weight gain especially around the abdomen, and morning sickness (nausea and vomiting).

Affected patients strongly believe that they are pregnant. Some even experience labor pains, false labor (rare), breast changes or secretions, and so on.

Cause

False pregnancy is believed to be purely psychological. There are many suggested causes, which are merely suggestions as at the moment.

One of such suggestions, according to some professionals of mental health, is that most of these women have a great urge to have a child of their own, or are in great fear of becoming pregnant.

This urge or fear might be what causes a change in the endocrine system, and this change brings about the symptoms of pregnancy. The endocrine system is a vital part of the body that controls and regulates numerous functions of the body.

Treatment

Since the cause is not known, the treatment for Pseudocyesis is not a specific one. In certain cases, the symptoms experienced are tackled. Symptoms like the lack of a menstrual flow, breast changes, and so on.

Also, there is a need for psychotherapy to alleviate underlying psychological issues and the psychological effect of not being pregnant for very expectant ones like Alice.

The best way to make a patient with Pseudocyesis believe she is not pregnant is to show her the image of her womb, through an ultrasound. Even this may not convince a woman with false pregnancy that she is not pregnant.

Thankfully, false (phantom) pregnancy is very rare. Every woman with the condition deserves understanding and support while medical experts work with her to overcome the condition.