False Pregnancy (Pseudocyesis)
False pregnancy (or pseudocyesis as it is medically known) is a rare condition that is nonetheless a serious emotional and psychological condition in women. But what is false pregnancy and what are its causes and symptoms? What women are most at risk for pseudocyesis and what kind of diagnostic and treatment options are available for women who suffer from false pregnancy?
What is Pseudocyesis?
Pseudocyesis is a condition in which a non-pregnant woman believes that she is pregnant, even though there is no physical evidence of pregnancy.
Also referred to as pseudopregnancy, women with pseudocyesis will often experience real pregnancy symptoms.
Pseudocyesis occurs in one to six of every 22 000 births in the United States.
Causes of False Pregnancy in Women?
Although this condition has yet to be fully explained, experts believe that there is a strong emotional and psychological underpinning pseudocyesis.
Psychologists believe that women who experience false pregnancy have an extremely strong desire to be pregnant and experience the process of pregnancy. Women who have false pregnancies tend to experience false pregnancy symptoms around the same time that their relatives and friends are experiencing pregnancy.
Research has also linked false pregnancy to the pituitary gland (which is the centre of hormone production during pregnancy) and specifically, to an unusually high level of hormones. This hormone imbalance is often sparked by stress and anxiety, which in turn causes the emotional and psychological shifts that lead a woman to falsely believe she is expecting.
False Pregnancy Symptoms
Women who have false pregnancies will claim to have—and in some cases, actually exhibit—the following true pregnancy symptoms:
- cessation of menstruation
- morning sickness
- widening of the abdomen
- enlargement of the breasts
Experts are unsure as to why women experiencing pseudopregnancy sometimes exhibit true physical signs of pregnancy.
False Pregnancy Diagnosis
While pregnancy testing, such as a urine test, will usually prove a woman’s pregnancy symptoms are unfounded, women with pseudocyesis will insist they are pregnant due to a deeply-rooted desire to be pregnant.
However, women with pseudocyesis sometimes test positive on a pregnancy test, making diagnosis of the condition more baffling for doctors.
False Pregnancy: Which Women Are Most at Risk?
Women who are most at risk for pseudocyesis are:
- women in their late thirties or early forties, who have been trying to conceive for many years and who may have fertility problems
- women who are not generally emotionally unstable but who are extremely emotional with regard to pregnancy
- women who have suffered a miscarriage or who have lost a child
False Pregnancy Treatment
For women experiencing pseudocyesis, counseling is usually recommended in order to treat underlying emotional and psychological causes of false pregnancy, including stress, anxiety and depression.