The majority of women dream of becoming mothers. Many of them get the chance to experience the state of pregnancy, childbirth, and upbringing. But some women fall into the category of those who go through the torments of a phantom pregnancy. It is a rare phenomenon and it is more common to animals.
Statistics report that as the medicine and diagnostic methods develop the percentage of phantom pregnancy decreases. But it still occurs. So what are the reasons? How is it diagnosed and treated? These are the main questions the women and doctors are curious about.
What Is A Phantom Pregnancy?
Phantom pregnancy (or graviditas spuria) is a condition in which the pregnancy symptoms present but the woman is not actually pregnant.
Hippocrates was the first to describe the phantom pregnancy in the 300th year B.С. The most striking example is of the queen regnant of England Mary Tudor who was 100% sure that she was pregnant while she wasn’t. Some scientists believe that it is because of her inability to get pregnant she did all that monstrous things and was called Bloody Mary.
Every year the phantom pregnancy occurs less and less frequently. The reason for that lies in the pregnancy tests that can be conducted in the earliest days after the supposed conception.
Phantom Pregnancy Symptoms
The symptoms of phantom pregnancy are very similar to early pregnancy symptoms:
- the absence of periods;
- pain in the lower belly;
- bigger and more sensitive breasts;
- increased body weight;
- nausea and vomiting;
- the sensation of fetal movements.
These symptoms can be experienced for a few weeks or even months. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to differentiate from the normal pregnancy. The only difference is the fetus’s absence.
During the phantom pregnancy, the woman thinks that she is really pregnant. In 63–97% of cases, even the woman’s belly is enlarged. It happens because of the stored gases, fatty tissue, faeces, and urine.
The loss of periods is observed in 59–98% of cases.
About half of women under this condition claim that they felt the fetal movements.
Among other phantom pregnancy symptoms there are:
- gastrointestinal symptoms;
- uterus expansion;
- changes in uterus consistency, it’s softening.
Phantom Pregnancy Causes
Phantom pregnancy is closely related to the psychological factors typical for emotional conflicts. The women who want to get pregnant badly and those who are afraid of getting pregnant create a psychological conflict that triggers changes in the endocrine system. And the symptoms of a real pregnancy take place.
First and foremost, you need to understand that phantom pregnancy is caused by psychological and physiological problems.
When the woman’s desire to get pregnant is too strong and it’s not happening, and the medical history tells about infertility or miscarriage in the past or the woman simply wants to get married badly, her body can simulate these symptoms of a real pregnancy. The brain misinterprets the signals and starts to secrete pregnancy hormones, illustrating pregnancy signs.
Who Is At Risk?
Among those women who are at higher risk of getting phantom pregnancy are:
- 30-40-year-old women, who try to get pregnant without success for many years;
- emotionally unstable women;
- women who lost their child or had a miscarriage;
- women who are close to menopause but have no children.
Phantom Pregnancy Diagnostics
To establish what kind of pregnancy you have, the doctor will collect a thorough medical history. He or she will evaluate the symptoms of the phantom pregnancy and will make ultrasonic scanning of the small pelvis organs.
If it is a phantom pregnancy there will be neither a child in the womb nor a child’s heartbeat. Sometimes the specialist may notice changes in the uterus: it can increase in size or soften. The results for hCG will be negative.
But sometimes even that is not enough for the woman to stop thinking that she is pregnant.
Phantom Pregnancy Treatment
As a rule, a psychotherapist is your savior. Since the woman believes that she is pregnant, the treatment should be careful to avoid trauma. The main goal is to deliver the thought that this is a phantom pregnancy, to support mentally. Alternative methods include hypnosis.
In many cases, the symptoms disappear after the visits to the psychotherapist. But sometimes it can take months or even a year.
The desire to have babies shouldn’t overshadow common sense. Especially nowadays, when there are diagnostic techniques that allow showing the results with 100% precision in a few days after the conception.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.