- by Dr Sahana K P
- 0 Shares
- Nov 30 2017
WHAT EXACTLY IS A FALSE PREGNANCY?
It may sound bizarre but “false pregnancy” or “pseudocyesis” is a real phenomenon. It is a condition in which a woman believes that she is pregnant and experiences symptoms associated with pregnancy. It is a false belief of expecting a baby when you are not really carrying a child.
Some men may experience a related phenomenon known as couvade or sympathetic pregnancy, when their significant other is pregnant and experiencing normal aches and pains.
Some believe this to be a result of physical and mental trauma while some say that this could be a cause of a chemical imbalance. Sometimes an ovarian tumour can camouflage as false pregnancy. In other cases, certain other issues can create false pregnancy, such as:
- A past miscarriage (usually more than one)
- Sexual abuse
- Loss of a child
- Impending menopause
These feelings may leave a person more susceptible to a variety of psychological problems and insecurities that could lead to pseudocyesis. The woman's brain then misinterprets those signs as pregnancy and triggers the release of hormones that lead to actual pregnancy symptoms.
A woman undergoing pseudocyesis may experience similar symptoms as an actual mom-to-be. Some of the symptoms include:
- Stopping of the menstrual cycle
- Tender and enlarged breasts
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pregnancy cramps
- Fetal sensations
- Weight gain
- Swollen belly
- Preeclampsia or contractions
Since pseudocyesis is very similar to a real pregnancy, the doctor must ensure that it is indeed a false pregnancy. The tests conducted are similar to the ones carried out in an actual pregnancy. A pelvic exam, an ultrasound or a urine test will all point out to a negative pregnancy. No baby will be shown in the ultrasound neither will there be any heartbeat.
Pregnancy can be an exciting time for any woman. So when after a period of several months, she finds out that, in fact, she was not pregnant, it can not only be upsetting but extremely traumatic.
Doctors need to gently break the news and provide psychological support and therapy to help the patient recover from the tragedy. If there are no psychological or neurological conditions behind the false pregnancy, emotional support and counselling is advised.
False pregnancy is a delicate situation and we must not be under the impression that women were faking pregnancy or being hysterical. The symptoms are so real to actual pregnancy that patient, family and doctors, all begin to treat is as a real pregnancy.
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