The beauty of having close relations in counselling and therapy disciplines is that it gives writing on somewhat abstract concepts a personal touch. While none of their specific cases are ever discussed with me for ethical, private and confidential reasons, leisurely conversations during a Sunday afternoon stroll, revealed so much more than my sterile research had uncovered. Even without mention of their specific cases, it brought the case of delusional pregnancies home.
In some cases, it revealed things that were overlooked and barely mentioned because they were too intimate or seemingly “crazy”. Even with the strict limitations of not having any confidential information disclosed, the general chat did not elicit general results. It opened up a world I was not sure I wanted to confront, even as a writer.
I ran this list past random women and almost all of them felt a deeper connection, sadness, shock and/or even crazy response at the contents thereof. While a lot has been written and understood about delusional pregnancies, this was a list of things jotted down from having had a one-on-one with actual people who have and/or are dealing with this.
“After reading this list – everything changed. Before this, I would ask, how on earth one would not know or take things so far… I mean from school we were told you are either pregnant or you are not… I guess it is possible to be a bit of both,” responded a random woman after seeing the list of 7 things you probably did not know about delusional pregnancies.
7 She’s Not Pretending to Be Pregnant
Unlike in stories where a woman tucks in pillows and pretends to be pregnant, when it comes to delusional pregnancies, it's common to all cases that the affected patient believes that she is pregnant. It's as real as it gets, and is therefore not a “false pregnancy” in laymen’s terms. In many cases, both partners are so convinced about the pregnancy, they prepare for the baby and start thinking about baby names for a boy or girl.
The delusional pregnant women can be so convinced that she’s pregnant, she could start buying maternity clothes for herself, especially as her body starts to grow and change. Both partners, believing that they're parents-to-be, can tell their friends about the baby and feel genuine excitement and anxiety at the news of being entrusted with a soul from their own flesh.
In many cases her menstrual cycle stops as her body goes into what looks like it is preparing for the baby inside of her to grow.
It is not that they think she’s pregnant, it's a deeply rooted knowledge that can come from the mind and heart. Sometimes, it can happen to individuals and/or couples who have a deep longing for a child. They want a child so bad, it begins to “manifest” in the flesh. From having an informal talk with a clinical psychologist, it became clear that what the woman who is experiencing this, it all feels real to her.
She – along with her partner – are utterly convinced that they're pregnant, particularly because so many signs and symptoms of pregnancy are there.The physical symptoms are there and she knows like she knows that there is a baby growing on the inside of her. There’s no doubt as to whether she thinks she’s pregnant and this can be even more justified because tests and doctors can validate her belief based on her reported signs and symptoms.
There’s no element of being deceitful about being pregnant just to acquire maternity leave or try to “keep a man” by pulling the “baby, I think I’m pregnant” trick up her sleeve. These patients – to the best of their knowledge – feel, know and think that they are pregnant.
6 False-Positive Pregnancy Tests
Jokes aside, the first thing that comes to mind when someone says that they're pregnant is whether or not they took a pregnancy test. It's no longer acceptable in this day and age to just go on a hunch or assumption that you're pregnant based on feeling pregnant or having unprotected sex.
Let me be blunt and ask the question that most of you are asking yourself right now… How on earth can one think they are pregnant when they haven't taken a pregnancy test? Can you really go ahead telling everybody that you're pregnant, picking out baby names, converting a room to a nursery or even buying a bigger house and applying for maternity leave – can you do all that – when you haven't even taken a pregnancy test?
Here’s the somewhat crazy and shocking part; in some cases a pregnancy test can be taken and reveal a positive result even though she is not pregnant. This is known as a false-positive result.
Your body can even trick a pregnancy test into a false positive
It is also argued that it could be due to the changes in the endocrine system of the body, leading to the secretion of hormones that are similar to those secreted during pregnancy. The patient genuinely thinks that she’s pregnant and can sometimes have pregnancy test results to back up her convictions.
After all, who are we to doubt a pregnancy test if it says that you're pregnant? It's like pointing to a smoke alarm that is ringing and doubting whether or not there's a fire. After all, where there’s smoke, there’s a fire, right? Wrong. Even with a negative (or a positive) pregnancy test result, the delusional pregnant patient (as the psychologist referred to her), is adamant that she is pregnant. Regardless of what the test results show, her mind is convinced that the pregnancy is genuine.
In the presence and/or absence of further “proof”, the woman knows-like-she-knows that there is a baby (or babies) growing within her. She can almost feel the physical and other changes happening as a result of the baby she believes is growing inside of her. In many cases, it's not just a case of wishful-thinking, but utter awareness that she is pregnant, when indeed she is not. The belief can be so real, that her body adapts to it and also behaves as though it is with child.
5 Signs and Symptoms Sometimes Fool Doctors
There are various reported incidents when the common signs and symptoms of pregnancy are so evident, that even doctors have wrongfully confirmed pregnancies, when in fact the women were not pregnant at all.
Just like in a normal pregnancy, the woman (assuming she is pregnant) can experience morning sickness symptoms, which include vomiting and nausea. These can be so in sync with that of a typical pregnancy, that doctors may often mistake them to be as a result of her being pregnant.
The woman can experience mood swings and/or become overly emotional; which is fairly common in pregnant women. These changes go hand in hand with what is expected and can add to the assumption that the woman is indeed pregnant.
The pregnancy symptoms are too convincing even for doctors
It isn't not just the emotional aspects that can be deceiving, but even the physical ones that can be added as further “proof” of pregnancy. The woman can experience soft and tender breasts and even report that her breasts are growing, firming up and the likes. There can even be secretions coming from the breasts, just like in a normal pregnancy setting.
Sore and aching feet can be reported along with many other clinical or subclinical signs and symptoms associated with pregnancy, even though the woman is not actually pregnant. The body of the woman starts behaving as though she is pregnant. Different pregnancy milestones are met and there are little differences that show that she is not actually pregnant.
As already discussed in the previous point, even the pregnancy test taken by the woman at home can come back with a false-positive result, which can sometimes be backed up by the doctor’s pregnancy test administered in the hospital or clinical setting.
An ultrasound is the best way to confirm a pregnancy
Without any gimmicks or persuasion, false-positive pregnancy test results can often persuade doctors and other qualified trained medical professionals, particularly when this is supported by several other pregnancy symptoms and signs.
Physical, scientific and emotional changes can occur to the extent that doctors make a pregnancy diagnosis, particularly in the absence of an ultrasound and other scans that can show what is inside of the woman’s womb.
4 Tummy Grows
What is the one obvious sign to the ordinary layman that someone is pregnant? I mean, what one thing – apart from a social media pregnancy announcement or a direct statement – draws out the suspicion that someone might be pregnant? It has to be abdominal distention.
In simple terms, it is the swelling tummy that becomes larger and larger as the pregnant woman assumedly reaches various milestones. Apart from the so-called rare incidents that are reported about on TLC’s popular show “I didn’t know I was pregnant”, the reality is that most women will not have tummies as flat as pancakes when they're pregnant after a couple of months.
The growing tummy and protruding belly button are often surefire signs that one is pregnant. That is the one sign that often sparks a conversation and encourages the “congratulations on your pregnancy” or shrugs around “could it be?” All of which are dependent on the context of the pregnancy.
A pregnant looking belly makes everyone think she's pregnant
With a delusional pregnancy, it is fairly common to find out through the pregnancy announcement as the parents believe that they're pregnant and can go ahead to tell family and friends about their life-changing news. Yet, you can also see for yourself, because in many instances, the tummy grows just like in a normal and real pregnancy.
As time progresses and she moves into different phases of her trimesters, so does her belly. The tummy can grow in such a way that it looks visibly pregnant (not just that she’s had one pizza slice too many). The woman looks like a real pregnant woman, even though there is no fetus inside her womb.
This can make the treatment rather complicated and controversial, because the woman can manifest a lot of the pregnancy symptom requirements, including passing a pregnancy test, to no longer fitting in her ordinary clothes, but being restricted to maternity wear because of the weight gain and large abdomen (pregnancy belly). She looks, feels and seems pregnant in many ways, but is not pregnant.
3 She Feels the Baby Kick
It has been argued that there's nothing as precious as feeling the development of life within a womb. Inside your very flesh, life starts off insignificantly small and grows, gets a heartbeat and ends up having organs, personality and a heart of its own and can go on to get DNA of its own.
The fetus is alive and everyone knows this particularly when they and the moms-to-be can see the fetus moving inside their very beings. This is often described as a very sacred and indescribable experience by pregnant mothers who have experienced it. As time progresses, these movements of the fetus are not only expected, but serve as reassuring signs that all is well and going as expected.
The feelings of a baby kicking inside the mom is comforting and a good sign, because it serves to confirm that the child is alive. It serves as a comfort to reassure the doctor and mother that there is life inside the bulging preg belly.
Her belly moves and wiggles, but there's no baby in there
In a normal pregnant woman, the quickening comes from a baby moving around, inside of the mother’s womb. There is life inside the mother’s chambers which comes from another person inside of her. The baby makes the movements and kicks when they want to or is stimulated to do so. It's the child who reassures the mother that they're very much alive and well.
The life from inside taps outside to connect with the mother. It's a bonding process whereby the mother-to-be knows that they're no longer alone. It is not just a phrase “I’m pregnant”, but a reality that starts to kick in, that I know that there's life inside of me because I not only sense it, but actually physically feel my baby’s presence inside of me as well.
The only complicated thing – which makes all the difference – is that even with a delusional pregnant mom feeling and being utterly convinced of the fetus moving and kicking inside of her… there is no baby who alive in her womb, because the reality is, there's no baby inside of her to begin with.
2 She Expects a Baby Shower
Like any other mother-to-be who is bulging out of proportion and who has shared this news with friends, colleagues and loved ones, because of what she believes to be a baby inside of her, there comes a time when she starts to expect a surprise baby shower. Convinced that there's a life inside of her, she secretly hopes for the day when her friends come together to wish her well, pose with her pregnant belly and wish her well in the journey of motherhood ahead of her.
While she may long to hold baby in her arms and wrestle with the fears and joys of being a mom, she probably also wishes to make as many fond memories before the baby "comes out of her." Like any expectant mom to be who has gone through the motions of being pregnant and endured the sacrifices that this period requires, she wants to celebrate her journey, be showered with gifts, flowers, mothering tips, vouchers and fun, at her own baby shower.
She's looking forward to being the center of attention
If she belongs to a culture where moms-to-be undergo various birthing preparation rituals and sacrifices for unborn children, this is the period where she too will most likely be thinking about that and whether or not to participate in them. Depending on which part of the world she lives in, animals may be sacrificed for her vitality, rituals planned and undertaken or merely balloons inflated with friends gathered trying to guess the gender of the child and shortlisted baby names.
Like any mom to be, she too may have high hopes for the child she believes is inside of her. She may be preparing for labor and desperately hoping her friends and family can come together to encourage her, make it fun to be pregnant and wish her well. She may have also applied for maternity leave and even be on maternity leave waiting to give birth – to nothing.
1 Delusional Pregnancies Can End Up in Labor
In real life, you can't stay pregnant forever, and neither can you in some instances of delusional pregnancies, after enduring the life altering season of being “pregnant”, there may come a time to “give birth”.
When one compares it to a real pregnant woman’s journey, there comes a time when a zygote is no longer that, but grows and multiplies to become a fetus with motions, movement and a pulse of its own. It gets personality, and rapidly grows in size and intellect until the womb can no longer contain it anymore. The womb becomes too limiting and small and the world awaits it.
Even though she is not pregnant – apart from showing many signs that she is – the delusional pregnant mother may reach a moment when she can't carry the pregnancy anymore, but feels it’s now “full-term” and even reach a moment when she gets contractions and/or goes into “labor."
The delusional pregnancy can make the sufferer go through labor and birth pains
Her body and “science” may have convinced her that she's pregnant, and she's prepared for the moment when her child must be born, she'll even feel labor pains as she prepares to “give birth."
By now, she may have her bags packed and is on her way to the hospital to give birth to the child she believes is inside of her. At this time, it's not unusual for the woman to want the labor to come so that she can be united with the child she thinks is inside of her.
Everyone will be expecting a baby, but no one is prepared for what really happens
With labor pain peaking and her body convincing her that it's time to give birth, the woman may go through the trials of labor. She may endure pain upon pain, looking at the seemingly pregnant belly in front of her, sweating, breathing, gasping in pain, holding on to her motivation and the mental picture of seeing the child that she believes is inside of her.
When the pain gets unbearable, she most likely tells herself to hang on, that she's going to be a mom soon. As labor climaxes, and after the pain and trauma of a seemingly real pregnancy, she may give birth to nothing but air. In the end she's left with empty arms, embarrassed dreams and probably a lifetime of vital psychotherapy.