What is Pseudocyesis?
Being pregnant is probably one of the happiest moment to happen in the lives of women who excitedly expect to have a baby. However, pregnancy does not always mean that an unborn baby is developing in the women’s womb. This is called Pseudocyesis and sometimes referred to as pseudopregnancy.
It is a very rare case wherein a woman or perhaps her husband believes that she is pregnant, only to discover later on that the symptoms are caused by something else and not by pregnancy. Pseudocyesis can affect a woman emotionally or psychologically due to the disappointment of not being pregnant at all.
The woman may think that she is already carrying a child when in fact there’s none. Individuals with pseudocyesis have all or just a number of pregnancy symptoms without the actual fetus. This uncommon condition happens to about one to six people out of every 22,000 live births and most common in women aged 20-39 years.
Women who are more at risk at having pseudocyesis are those who had suffered a miscarriage, women in their late thirties or forty plus who have fertility problems and had been trying to have a child for several years, and those women in general who are emotionally unstable but can feel extreme emotions when it comes to pregnancy.
Rarely, pseudocyesis can occur to men and they will also develop many symptoms of a pregnant woman such as nausea, backache, and weight gain. Some men also experience a related phenomenon referred to as couvade or sympathetic pregnancy.
What are the Symptoms of Pseudocyesis?
Women with pseudocyesis experience most, if not all, the symptoms of that of a pregnant woman which include:
- Vomiting or morning sickness
- Abdomen becomes enlarged
- Menstrual period is somewhat delayed or interrupted
- Cravings for several food
- Feeling of fetal movements
- Gaining of weight
- Certain changes in the nipples, tender and enlarged breasts, and sometimes the breasts also produces milk
These symptoms may possibly last for a couple of weeks, for nine months, or a number of years. A very small percentage of individuals with pseudocyesis will take a visit at the physician’s office or hospital due to the labor pains felt.
What are the Causes of Pseudocyesis?
This condition has not been explained clearly yet, but according to some experts, they believe that pseudocyesis involves psychological and emotional issues. However, the precise causes are still unknown, psychological aspects may somehow trick the body of the individual that she is pregnant.
When a woman badly wants to get pregnant, which may be due feelings of yearning for marriage, infertility, miscarriage, or menopause, her body tends to make some signs of pregnancy.
The brain of the woman then misconceives those signals as pregnancy, and prompts off the release of hormones that results to real pregnancy symptoms. Researchers had also proposed that sexual abuse, poverty, insufficient education, and problems in a relationship may play a role in eliciting false pregnancy.
Having pseudocyesis is completely different when a woman claims to be pregnant for financial benefits, or delusions of being pregnant in patients with schizophrenia.
How to treat Pseudocyesis?
To find out whether a woman really undergoes a false pregnancy, the physician will first evaluate her symptoms then perform an examination through pelvic and abdominal ultrasound procedures. The ultrasound is identical to the tests used to visualize and feel the baby that has yet to be born in a woman’s womb during a normal pregnancy.
During the case of a false pregnancy, no baby will be spotted on the ultrasound, and no heartbeat will be heard either. Sometimes, the physician will find a few physical changes that happen during pregnancy, like the uterus becomes enlarged and the softened cervix.
In urine pregnancy tests, the result will be consistently negative excluding the rare cancers that create the exact hormones of pregnancy.
Other medical conditions may imitate the symptoms of pregnancy such as cancer, ectopic pregnancy, and morbid obesity. These types of condition have to be checked out with diagnostic tests.
After finding out that the woman is certainly positive with pseudocyesis, the physician will slowly explain to her the news and come up with a psychological support including counseling and therapy. This will help the woman recover from her utter disappointment of not being pregnant especially if the false pregnancy occurred for several months. It should be treated in order to eliminate her anxiety, stress, and depression.
Having to suffer a false pregnancy is never easy and so the person does not only need the therapies but also a support from the family.
- False Pregnancy: Which Women Are Most at Risk? at http://www.womens-health.co.uk/false_pregnancy.html
- NATURAL HISTORY AND PROGNOSIS, PATHOGENESIS AND RISK FACTORS, Psychosomatic hypothesis, Somatopsychic hypothesis, Psychophysiologic hypothesis, DIAGNOSIS, Differential diagnosis, MANAGEMENT, Goals of treatment, Conveying the diagnosis, Counseling Intervening with health care providers and health care systems, Psychotropic medication, Restoring menstrual periods Involving family and friends at http://www.uptodate.com/contents/pseudocyesis
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- Dafallah SE (2004). Pseudocyesis and infertility. Saudi Med J; 25:964.
- Brockington I (2000). Obstetric and gynaecological conditions associated with psychiatric disorder. In: New Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry, Gelder MG, Lopez-Ibor JJ, Andreasen N (Eds), Oxford University Press, Oxford. Vol 2, p.1195.