We’ve all seen or heard of the show “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant”. After hearing about something like this, it makes you wonder if it’s really possible to not know you’re pregnant. This is very possible, in fact they even have a medical term for it called cryptic pregnancy. This is a pregnancy that can go undetected by the mother and doctors until delivery. A hormonal imbalance stops the body from completely knowing it’s pregnant. The mother may experience odd periods and even ovulation. This alone can make you think you’re not pregnant even though you are. Pregnancy symptoms can be so subtle during cryptic pregnancies that they can be mistaken for something else like gas or an upset stomach. 1 in 2500 women can make it to labor without knowing. That’s three times more common than a woman having triplets!
Cryptic Pregnancies can be very tricky. If you’re someone who’s always had irregular periods it’s no big deal if your period doesn’t show. This only poses a problem if you’re actually pregnant. Depending on a woman’s body type, she can make it to 30 weeks without showing a baby bump. The main contributor to cryptic pregnancies is a hormone called the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG). The hormone is produced by the placenta and secreted into the uterine lining. From there hCG gets into your urine and blood. Having odd periods during a cryptic pregnancy disrupts this natural order. During menstruation the uterus still sheds its lining preventing hCG from building up and secreting into the urine & blood. Without hCG in the mother’s system the body won’t be properly signaled it’s pregnant.
Okay, so I know you’re probably thinking, “well she at least has to feel the baby moving around.” Not necessarily! If the placenta is in front of the uterus the mother won’t feel a thing. Being overweight or obese can also prohibit the mother feeling any movement. Some doctors say a cryptic pregnancy is an adaptive “emergency” mechanism. Meaning, the fetus senses a threat and demands little from the mother’s body. The fetus will lay low to maximize its chances of being born.
Since the body never detected a fetus it won’t put all the proper developmental processes in motion. This can cause longer than normal gestational periods. Labor can be quite different and longer than the average labor process. Labor can be extremely long with contractions and severe cramps. In some cases, labor can begin months before the actual delivery. Although, the process of labor may be long, the physical delivery can be relatively short. You may experience abdominal pain, nausea, back pain, heart palpitations, blurred vision, cold sweats, diarrhea, fever, and mood swings.
In case you didn’t know…
Pregnancy symptoms might be mild, however there are still cryptic pregnancy symptoms. The biggest symptoms are vaginal bleeding and ongoing menstruation. You may also experience very mild forms of common pregnancy symptoms. Due to lack of preparation and prenatal care, some people worry about delivering a healthy baby after a cryptic pregnancy. Healthy babies are born after this type of pregnancy. Now, that doesn’t mean your baby isn’t at risk at all. Cryptic pregnancies tend to have a higher risk of birth defects and low birth weight.
Paying close attention to your body can help you avoid cryptic pregnancies. If you think something is off don’t be afraid to consult your doctor. Make sure you don’t brush off a pregnancy symptom thinking it’s something else. Having frequent visits with your doctor can also help avoid cryptic pregnancies. Especially, if you have been using the same doctor for a long time. Your doctor may be able to spot what’s going on before you do. Just remember, go with your gut and make sure you don’t skip your next physical.