A cryptic pregnancy, also called a stealth pregnancy, is a pregnancy that conventional medical testing methods may fail to detect. Cryptic pregnancies aren’t common, but they’re not unheard of, either.
Television shows like MTV’s “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” showcase extreme examples of this condition. But anecdotal evidence suggests that women might not be aware of their pregnancies in up to 1 out of 475 cases.Trusted Source.
It’s frustrating if you’re hoping to be pregnant, and become convinced that you are, only to be told that according to a blood or urine test, it’s not possible. A stealth pregnancy can make you feel mixed emotions, too.
It can also be scary and confusing to find out that you’re actually pregnant as late at seven, eight, or nine months into it. Some women with this condition are even taken by surprise by labor pains that are their first real “sign” of pregnancy.
Let’s take a closer look at the symptoms, statistics, and stories behind this real condition.
What are the symptoms of a cryptic pregnancy?
To understand how a cryptic pregnancy can go undetected, it helps to grasp what a “normal” pregnancy looks like in its early stages. In the United States, most people discover that they’re pregnant within 5 to 12 weeks after conception.
After missing a period, a home pregnancy test will generally indicate a “positive” result. Further urine testing, a blood test, and ultrasound at an OB-GYN will then confirm the pregnancy. Most people notice symptoms of pregnancy such as tender and swollen breasts, mood swings, fatigue, and nausea early on during the first trimester.
When you’re having a cryptic pregnancy, nothing sets off the chain of events that leads to discovering that you’re pregnant. A pregnancy test may come back negative even after you’ve missed your period. You may dismiss early pregnancy nausea as stomach flu or indigestion.
Maybe you’ve been told that you have infertility, or your periods don’t come regularly to begin with, meaning that pregnancy isn’t a possibility you would be prone to consider.
If you’re pregnant but aren’t aware of it, missing pregnancy symptoms can add to the confusion. Especially if you’ve never been pregnant before, it’s easy to dismiss pregnancy symptoms such as fetal movement, slight weight gain, and fatigue as the result of dietary or lifestyle choices.
Low levels of pregnancy hormones can mean your pregnancy symptoms are very mild or close to impossible to notice.
What causes a cryptic pregnancy?
Fluctuating hormones can lead to slight bleeding that resembles a period. If you’re not missing your period (or are very irregular to begin with) and feel mostly the same as usual, why would you take a pregnancy test?
This line of reasoning, combined with the common causes of cryptic pregnancy, is how many people can go months without knowing they’re pregnant.
Conditions associated with cryptic pregnancy include:
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This condition can limit your fertility, create hormonal imbalances, and cause skipped or irregular periods.
- Perimenopause is the time between when your period begins to grow less consistent and when it stops completely, which is marked by menopause. Pregnancy symptoms like weight gain and hormone fluctuations can mimic perimenopause symptoms.
- Birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs) can make you feel confident that pregnancy just isn’t a possibility for you. While these methods of preventing pregnancy are very effective, there are instances when you can get pregnant even on birth control or with an IUD in place.
- It’s possible to get pregnant again after pregnancy and before your period returns. Since breastfeeding and hormonal factors can cause your body to delay ovulation and your period for several months after birth, you may assume your symptoms are just your body adjusting to its postpartum state when you’re actually pregnant once again.
- Low body fat and athletic activity can cause your period to disappear for months at a time. People who participate in high-impact sports may also have low levels of certain hormones, making it harder to detect a pregnancy.
Gilmour Foundation Cryptic Pregnancy
A cryptic pregnancy or delayed pregnancy is a lack of subjective awareness of pregnancy until the end of gestation in pregnant women. This condition has an incidence of 1:475. Causes are not clear.
The following subset of questions regarding symptoms can help determine “whether a person is pregnant or not?” Of which would be confirmed with a pregnancy test.
- Are these symptoms (e.g. nausea, abdominal pain, etc.) ovulation symptoms or symptoms of pregnancy?
- Visible weight gain is generally noticed around the second trimester, so if the question of pregnancy is derived from weight gain determine if there have been any changes in eating habits or have you missed your last few periods.
Some people believe cryptic pregnancy is a pregnancy where urine and blood tests are negative because of low hCG and that even ultrasounds don’t show the fetus because it grows much more slowly. There is no medical literature to support their case. Consequences associated with cryptic pregnancy include antepartum deaths, intrapartum deaths, and neonatal deaths. The most common main cause of death was an infection, neonatal, and placental. Some people believe that cryptic pregnancy can often lead to poor outcomes and deaths due to postpartum emotional disturbance, preterm births, small for gestational age babies. Cryptic pregnancy could possibly contribute to an increased incidence of fetal abuse, child neglect, or even neonaticide.
Cryptic Pregnancy Pictures
How To Confirm A Cryptic Pregnancy
Below are some reasons why cryptic pregnancy may take place. Most of them are due to hormonal changes:
1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Small cysts on the ovaries can cause a hormonal imbalance in women. PCOS is on the rise due to changing lifestyles. This illness creates hormonal imbalances and irregular periods.
2. Recent Pregnancy
It’s possible for a woman to get pregnant after a pregnancy. In such a case, skipped periods might be mistaken for postpartum recovery. A woman may fail to realize that she’s pregnant again.
Perimenopause is a condition wherein the female body exhibits symptoms of menopause, such as weight gain and hormonal fluctuations. When women fail to distinguish a pregnancy due to perimenopause symptoms, it results in a cryptic pregnancy.
4. Low Body Fat
For athletes or women with low body fat, hormone levels may fluctuate, resulting in missed periods. This also makes it harder to detect a pregnancy.
5. Birth Control Pills
Those who use birth control pills and IUDs are usually confident of pregnancy not being a possibility. However, these contraceptive methods don’t guarantee a 100% success rate and can result in pregnancy.
As our lifestyles become increasingly fragile, we take on more stress to stay shoulder to shoulder with the world. Stress is one of the major factors of fluctuating hormone levels, especially in women.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Cryptic Pregnancy
Below are symptoms of cryptic pregnancy which women might fail to notice:
- Period-like bleeding during the pregnancy that resembles a regular menstrual cycle
- Typical pregnancy symptoms like nausea and vomiting are very mild and easily mistaken for other conditions
- The fetus is present but nestles at the back of the uterus towards the spine
- Though there is fetal movement in the uterus, it is very similar to the feeling of gas and indigestion.