Pseudocyesis: False Pregnancy


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phantompregnancy.jpg
Imagine showing up at the hospital, all signs of pregnancy, thinking you're about to give birth. You're rushed into a room by a doctor to find out you're not really pregnant. Pseudocyesis or false pregnancy is the appearance of physiological signs of pregnancy without conception. One to six for every 22,000 births is a case of this false pregnancy. It is even possible for patients with this disorder to test positive on pregnancy tests. All pregnancy symptoms can be prevalent  except you will not hear heart tones from the fetus, you will not see the fetus in an ultrasound, and there is clearly no delivery of a baby. 

There are plenty of psychological theories about this condition, although much is just speculation at the moment. Dating back to Sigmund Freud, his most famous patient, Anna O thought she was indeed pregnant with the baby or her previous psychoanalyst. Freud linked it to transference which the the strong attachment of patients to their psychoanalysts. Other psychiatrists, in more recent years, believe that women who desperately want to become pregnant or have a strong attachment to a family member's pregnancy are the ones who develop this issue. 

Opposed to the psychological view, there is also the biological explanation. Many patients have increases levels of hormones such as estrogen and prolactin which are hormones that cause physical symptoms of abnormal swelling and milk excretion. There can also form the psychological symptoms such as just wanting to bond with the baby. 

Putting the psychological and biological views together causes a feedback loop where an initial emotional state causes hormone secretion which causes the affects. There is no positive answer to why pseudocyesis happens due to the complete lack of test subjects, but Dr. Paul Paulman of the University of Nebraska Medical Center hopes to study man individual cases to get a better insight into how the phenomena occurs. No large-scale studies have ever been conducted either and there is a low possibility of that ever happening. It is difficult with such a rare occurrence to document much at all, but I feel it is very probable that this combination of the psychological and biological are very reasonable. As we all know, women are the emotional type and once they have their heart set, convincing their body may not be as hard as we all would have thought. It can really be a very disappointing experience for the women and couples put through this pseudocyesis as they may truly believe in their pregnancy. It can be a scarring event.

5 Comments

All I can think about while reading this, is what!!! I have never heard about this before, so this is pretty different to hear. I researched it more because I wanted to know more about this. But, I found pretty much all the same information as you did. Most articles said it is due to women just wanting to be pregnant so they convince themselves they are. It's weird to think that people can convince themselves they are pregnant. I found this article giving real examples of pseudocyesis happening form nurses: http://10centandbeyond.blogspot.com/2010/04/pseudocyesis-false-pregnancy.html

This is actually crazy. It is so weird to think that women can "make themselves pregnant" by their thoughts and having a certain hormone. I could never imagine like being "pregnant" for nine months and then thinking you are in labor, but you were actually never really pregnant in the first place. According to wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_pregnancy 1% of women experience false labor. How weird do you think it would be to be a nurse and have a case like this one day..

I actually really love this blog!It's pretty interesting because I've never heard of this before. Sure I've heard of stillborn babies and miscarriages but never this! It's so funny how the mind can trick our body into doing things. It's extraordinary that our brain can even go so far as to tricking our body into believing that we're with child. I love learning about the brain and how it works, here's a video on how our brain processes things http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiTz2i4VHFw

I have never heard of this occurrence. I've heard of false labor and other misconceptions that occur during pregnancy, but never an entire false pregnancy.

The thing that is difficult about this situation is that, like you said, there's very few ways to go about researching this phenomena. The theories about the occurrence, as of now, are little to work with and can barely be considered theories.

WebMd compares this phenomena to sympathy pregnancies which commonly occur in the partners of pregnant women. I think if it were possible to get more research on the issue, it would be interesting to see their findings, but the rarity and lack of severity (besides psychological) of the phenomena indicates that a huge attempt to find out more is unlikely to occur.

I honestly didn't even know something like this existed so this topic is such a great find! A WebMD aritcle I was reading shows how similar symptoms of false pregnancy are to a those of a real pregnancy. Wow! http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/false-pregnancy-pseudocyesis

Also, it's so crazy that symptoms can actually last for 9 months or even years past that! Did you know that the first cases of this disorder date back to Hippocrates in 300 B.C. with a documented 12 women suffering from the disorder? Crazy! http://www.minddisorders.com/Ob-Ps/Pseudocyesis.html

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