Cryptic pregnancy, also referred to as “stealth pregnancy,” is when the pregnant mother doesn’t know she’s expecting. While it may seem impossible or simply hard to believe to not know you’re pregnant until labor pains hit, cryptic pregnancy is a very real condition.
This may seem like a strange concept to some, but has become more known since the show I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant aired in 2009. However, some questions still remain despite an entire television series airing about the condition. What causes cryptic pregnancy? What are some of the symptoms? We’re here to answer these questions and more.
10 It May Be More Common Than We Think
One source, the US National Library of Medicine, says evidence points to around one in 475 pregnancies being a cryptic pregnancy and up to one in 2,500 women not knowing they are pregnant until labor. Sure, it may seem like every cryptic pregnancy is extreme with mothers giving birth in the bathroom of their homes thanks to television shows, but that’s not always the case.
Some women find out before labor sets in they are seven or eight months pregnant. Women may also suspect they are pregnant, only to have tests come back a false negative. See, cryptic pregnancies can be tricky in more ways than one.
9 Medical Tests Can Show A False Negative
Sometimes an expectant mom may feel symptoms of pregnancy such as fatigue or sickness, only to have blood or urine tests come back a false negative. This is because the hormone (hCG) detected by these tests may be too low to show positive. This usually occurs in instances such as when the woman has been on birth control or had her tubes tied. Of course, other methods of checking for pregnancy, such as ultrasounds, may be more effective in determining if a woman is truly pregnant in these cases. However, even ultrasounds may not be effective in detecting pregnancy in the early months as later discussed.
8 Becoming Pregnant Soon After Giving Birth Can Cause Cryptic Pregnancy
New mothers may not realize they are pregnant again a few months after having given birth due to hormonal changes still happening. Missed periods may not be concerning for a few months postpartum, but does not mean it’s impossible to get pregnant again so soon.
Because of this, new moms may be surprised to learn they are once again expecting just months after having a baby. Of course, having two babies within one year sounds exhausting but also nice to have kids so close in age!
7 It May Be Psychological In Some Cases
While more rare than physical conditions, it’s said psychological factors may play in role in women not believing they are pregnant. Some expectant mothers do not experience sickness or cravings and may be on birth control. This can result in them not believing or realizing they are pregnant.
In other cases, women may have been told by doctors it would be difficult for them to conceive, which makes them doubt signs of pregnancy. And with false negative tests thrown into the mix, it’s not hard to see how women may not realize they are pregnant.
6 Athletes And Women With Low Body Fat Can Be At Risk For Cryptic Pregnancy
Because athletic women with lower body fat may miss periods and have lower hormone levels that affect symptoms of pregnancy, they are at risk of cryptic pregnancy. Hormones such as human chorionic gonadotropin (hGC), which is produced during pregnancy, may be harder to detect on medical tests. This could potentially result in a false negative pregnancy test. Despite these concerns, there are plenty of female athletes who experience typical pregnancies.
5 Pregnancy May Be Mistaken For Perimenopause Symptoms
Perimenopause is the stage which occurs before menopause. Periods may become irregular, women experience a decrease in estrogen and can see an increase in weight gain. Because these symptoms are so similar to those of pregnancy, women of a certain age may simply believe they are entering perimenopause.
This may lead to the surprise delivery of a baby just when the new mom was thinking it was impossible to get pregnant.
4 Cryptic Pregnancy Symptoms Can Be The Same As Typical Pregnancy Symptoms
Women may experience the same symptoms of pregnancy such as sickness, fatigue, and weight gain during a cryptic pregnancy, but may not know or believe they are expecting due to false tests and even ultrasounds that do not detect their pregnancy.
This may account for why women sometimes do not realize they are pregnant until the seventh or eighth month when ultrasounds may be more likely to detect the fetus, or even when they are in labor.
3 Even Ultrasounds Can Fail To Detect The Pregnancy
Unfortunately, if the technician is not looking for a fetus in the exact right place, even ultrasounds can fail to detect a pregnancy. Other factors such as human error during ultrasounds, the embryo implanting irregularly, or the technician simply not taking enough time during the appointment can all result in a missed reading.
This is where the psychological aspects may play a role as the expectant mother has now been told by both medical tests and an ultrasound technician that she is not pregnant despite having symptoms of pregnancy. She may simply take their word for it and not realize she's pregnant until going into labor.
2 Cryptic Pregnancies Can Vary In Length Of Gestational Period
Due to lower levels of hormones during pregnancy, the gestational period may be longer than the typical pregnancy. This is because the baby is growing at a slower rate since the lower levels of the hCG hormone are not signaling for fetus development. Because the babies are often smaller in cryptic pregnancies and sometimes carried towards the back of the womb, an expectant mother may not see a change in the shape of her belly. However, this does not automatically mean the baby will not be healthy.
1 Some Women May Continue To Have Periods Throughout The Pregnancy
It is not unheard of for women to continue having regular periods even while pregnant. Spotting after implantation and during pregnancy is not uncommon and can be mistaken for a menstrual period as well. Despite continued bleeding during cryptic pregnancies, this is not a sign of miscarriage.