A cryptic pregnancy, or stealth pregnancy, occurs when a woman is unaware of her pregnancy status. It could result from a failure in conventional testing methods in detecting the pregnancy, or she doesn’t recognize early pregnancy symptoms.
Studies show that 1 out of 475 pregnancies may not be realized until she’s around 20 weeks pregnant—one in 2,500 stealth pregnancies isn’t known until she goes into labor. Cryptic pregnancy results in psychological distress, unassisted delivery, and neonaticide, exposing the mother and the newborn to risk.
Causes Of Cryptic Pregnancy
Although cryptic pregnancy can occur to anyone, many things can cause it, ranging from hormonal conditions to contraceptive methods to life changes.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that can reduce your fertility, develop hormonal imbalances, and result in skipped or irregular periods.
- Perimenopause is when your period starts growing less consistent and when it completely stops due to menopause. Pregnancy symptoms such as weight gain and hormone fluctuations can imitate perimenopause symptoms.
- Birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs) can boost your confidence in not being pregnant. Although these pregnancy preventive methods are pretty effective, there are cases of getting pregnant while under birth control or with an IUD.
- You can still be pregnant after a pregnancy and before your period returns. As long as breastfeeding and hormonal factors can postpone ovulation and your period for many months after giving birth, you may feel your symptoms imply your body is only adjusting to its postpartum state; meanwhile, it’s just another pregnancy.
- Low body fat and athletic activity can suspend your period for months. Engaging in high-impact sports may also have low levels of specific hormones, making it difficult to detect a pregnancy.
- Sometimes, a cryptic pregnancy occurs because the pregnant person denies it or has a mental health issue.
What Are The Symptoms Of Cryptic Pregnancy?
The symptoms of a cryptic pregnancy are similar to those of a normal pregnancy. However, in this case, she is unaware that those symptoms are associated with pregnancy.
- Missed period: As a significant early sign of pregnancy, roughly 30% of women have erratic periods and sometimes only experience a few periods a year. Therefore, it’s common for her to miss a period for a month or two. If she isn’t aware of it, she wouldn’t bother to take a pregnancy test.
- Few or no pregnancy symptoms: You can easily dismiss signs of pregnancy like nausea, cramping, and backaches, particularly if she’s never experienced pregnancy. She may relate these symptoms to being sick or her diet or lifestyle changes.
- Irregular spotting: Some women may have irregular spotting throughout pregnancy, which could be perceived for a short period of time.
- Wrong pregnancy test: While you can depend on most pregnancy tests, it is vital to use them properly. For example, it is recommended to test with first-of-the-morning urine to identify the hCG hormone. The American Pregnancy Association suggests waiting until seven days after a missed period before a test.
- Being overweight: Overweight women may not detect abdominal swelling or may not believe their weight gain is abnormal.
- Baby movement: The baby’s position can also make it difficult to feel its movement. For example, when the placenta is in the front of the uterus, feeling and recognizing the movements might take longer. It may appear to her as gas or an upset stomach.
Prevention Of Cryptic Pregnancy
The most effective method to prevent a stealthy pregnancy is to know your body and sexual health. If you feel you might be pregnant, consider taking a home pregnancy test or consulting a healthcare provider for a blood or urine test.
Treatments For Cryptic Pregnancy
When you notice you’re pregnant, seek medical attention for a cryptic pregnancy. If your delivery date is still several months away, a pregnancy care provider will provide the prenatal care you’ve missed, including blood and urine tests, ultrasound, measuring fundal height, a physical exam, and nutritional and lifestyle counseling.
A cryptic pregnancy, or stealth pregnancy, occurs when a woman is unaware of her pregnancy due to various causes, like hormonal conditions, contraceptive methods, or denial. It might be hard to detect symptoms because they resemble regular pregnancy signs, like missed periods or occasional spotting.
You can prevent and address cryptic pregnancies by recognizing your body and seeking immediate medical guidance through tests and healthcare providers. Treatment, when noticed, generally includes catching up on missed prenatal care.