The Phenomenon of False Pregnancy or Phantom Pregnancy
False pregnancy, also known as phantom pregnancy or pseudocyesis, attained notoriety
a few years ago when it was put forward as an acceptable defence in a murder trial.
An American woman was accused of murdering a pregnant mother in order to steal the
baby from her womb. Her defence attorneys insisted that she was not guilty by reason
of insanity, in that she was suffering from pseudocyesis.
Pseudo pregnancy, or false pregnancy, is a condition in which a woman genuinely believes
that she is pregnant although there is no actual fetus in her womb. Experts do not
know why, but women going through a false pregnancy can sometimes exhibit actual
physical symptoms of pregnancy.
They are invariably desperate to get pregnant quickly, and somehow manage to deceive
not only their family and friends, but their own bodies too.
Such women can sometimes display symptoms such as amenorrhea (interruption of menstruation),
morning sickness, irrational cravings, widening of the abdomen, breast enlargement,
and the sensations of a child moving in the womb.
Although phantom pregnancy or false pregnancy is a comparatively rare condition,
it is a serious emotional and psychological condition for the woman who is suffering
from it. No single cause has ever been universally agreed by health professionals,
but there are three popular theories.
Emotional conflict, With this condition, the woman’s intense craving to become pregnant,
or an intense dread of getting pregnant, can stimulate changes in the endocrine
system which can lead to some of the symptoms of false pregnancy.
Wish-fulfillment Here a women harbors the desire to be pregnant so overwhelmingly
that pregnancy she interprets minor physical changes in her body as signs of advancing
Depression This theory maintains that chemical variations in the woman’s nervous system
could trigger the phantom pregnancy symptoms.
Researchers have also frequently linked false pregnancy syndrome to the pituitary
gland (this is the core of hormone production during pregnancy) together with a high
level of hormones.
It could be possible that these emotional or psychological shifts can lead a woman
to believing that she is pregnant is due to her hormonal imbalance triggered by her
stress and anxiety.
It is common in those suffering from pseudocyesis (false pregnancy), to insist that
they are pregnant despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary - from doctors and
Doctors are now countering such claims using ultrasound machines or scanning and
imaging. Counselling may also be helpful for women who suffer this condition, because
phantom pregnancy can sometimes indicate other deeper psychological problems.
This condition seems to be characterized by women who can think of nothing else but
getting pregnant from the moment they wake.
Thoughts like “When can I get pregnant?”, “How Can I get Pregnant Quickly?” quickly
morph into “I am pregnant, and I don’t care what anyone else says!”