Cryptic pregnancy: What happens when you 'skip' pregnancy but deliver a baby
Can a pregnancy take you by surprise? Why it may go undetected in some women till they give birth to a child.
Can a pregnancy happen without any symptoms or go undetected till the labour or even birth of a child? It may sound unbelievable to many, but there are around 1 in 500 pregnancies where women either are unaware that are going to be mothers or are in denial. (Also read: Ectopic pregnancy: When pregnancy becomes life threatening)
According to a report in The Sun, Niomi Thomas, a teenager, had no clue about her pregnancy till she felt a massive urge to push and turned around to discover that she has had a baby. Thomas shared with the tabloid how she didn't have any of the symptoms like morning sickness or baby bump and had irregular periods throughout her surprise pregnancy which was normal for her otherwise too. She thought her labour pain to be constipation and even took pain killers trying to subside her labour pain as per the paper.
What is cryptic pregnancy
"Cryptic pregnancy is also known as stealth pregnancy or a denied pregnancy. As the name suggests cryptic means mysterious. So, a woman may deny or does not know that she is pregnant till the time labour begins," says Dr Seema Sharma, Associate Director – Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chandigarh.
She says it is just the opposite of the condition of pseudocyesis where a lady has all the signs and symptoms of pregnancy and she is not pregnant.
"In contrast, women with cryptic pregnancies frequently do not have any signs and symptoms in the form of morning sickness, absence of periods or abdominal swelling in the form of baby bump. Some ladies may have an irregular period or spotting throughout the nine months so they or not able to guess that pregnancy has happened," says Dr Sharma.
Who's at risk of cryptic pregnancy
- Cryptic pregnancies more often happen in women who are obese and as a result they fail to notice physical changes happening in their bodies.
- Women who have infrequent periods or who become pregnant when they are breastfeeding and amenorrhic or teenaged girls sometimes fail to acknowledge the pregnancy in cases of sexual abuse.
- Perimenopausal women with irregular periods sometimes do suffer from cryptic pregnancies.
- Women using intra uterine devices or birth control pills irregularly might also miss the periods and not acknowledge that they are pregnant.
What are the harmful effects of a cryptic pregnancy
Dr Sharma says that a pregnant mother with cryptic pregnancy won't get prenatal care and may not know that she has to avoid alcohol, tobacco, or medications which may be harmful to the growing fetus.
"Medical complications of pregnancy like gestational diabetes and hypertension may also be missed giving rise to fetal complications of growth restriction and pre-maturity," says the gynaecologist.
Dr Seema Sharma says the carry home message for all sexually active women in reproductive age group is that pregnancy must be ruled out by urine or blood tests in case of scanty or missed periods so as to pick up cryptic pregnancies.