Hysterical Pregnancy Isn’t Funny


Preparing For Newborn Baby


The news of pregnancy is an exciting time for most mothers. What woman can resist sharing photos of her baby bump? Thoughts focus on the nursery with a crib and toys. The crowd of friends at a baby shower will be so helpful. Before giving birth, there are new clothes to buy and healthy eating adjustments to make. After all, you’re eating for two—or are you?

What is Pseudocyesis?

Pseudocyesis is a condition that perplexes onlookers with phantom pregnancy symptoms. Other names are hysterical pregnancy, delusional pregnancy, and false pregnancy. Pseudocyesis appears real to those outside looking in. It is even more realistic to a woman experiencing it.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines pseudocyesis. This clinical syndrome manifests a fictitious belief of being pregnant by a non-psychotic, non-pregnant female. It typically comes with physical or objective signs of pregnancy.

Prevalence of Pseudocyesis


Excessive levels of distress or mental illness can cause pseudocyesis according to DSM-5. Women between the ages of 20 to 39 years more often receive such a diagno­sis. However, women of postmenopausal and premenarchal ages report it.

Pseudocyesis is a rare disorder that affects females of all socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial groups. There are between 1 to 6 cases for every 22,000 births. Studies show that pseudocyesis is most common within the rural areas of more undeveloped countries.

Lack of early examinations by an ob-gyn or a midwife contribute to hysterical pregnancy frequency in rural areas. Women here delay health care until they are in labor or have a critical issue that requires medical attention.

In contrast, women in developed countries often visit their practitioner as soon as they think they are pregnant. As a result, diagnosis comes early. The absent fetus is clear with early physical examination and ultrasound imagery by an ob-gyn. This allows many women to get necessary assistance for dealing with the condition.

Causes of Pseudocyesis

There are several reasons for hysterical pregnancy. Professionals theorize that a mind-body feedback loop exists. This elicits powerful emotions and increases hormones. Such an elevation causes physical signs and symptoms that imitate an actual pregnancy.

The causative emotion could be anxiety or depression relating to fertility. Also, significant increases in levels of estrogen or prolactin can account for some of the pregnancy symptoms. Sometimes medical conditions like ovarian tumors trigger hormone enhancement, missed periods, and abdominal enlargement.

Symptoms of Pseudocyesis

A woman experiencing a phantom pregnancy can have many or all the pregnancy signs. Clinical manifestations may include:

  • Reduced menstrual flow
  • Breast growth/pigmentation
  • Food cravings
  • Abdominal enlargement
  • Inverted bellybutton
  • Fetal motion sensation
  • Lactation
  • Weight gain
  • Nausea
  • Amenorrhea
  • Vomiting
  • False labor

Treatment For Pseudocyesis

When a physical or psychological condition triggers pseudocyesis, the ob-gyn focuses treatment on the primary cause. If there is no underlying condition linked to pseudocyesis, there are no general instructions for medication. The focus is on remedying the signs and symptoms a patient is presenting.

It is essential for the patient to have an efficient support system. She most often will continue to dismiss evidence of her false pregnancy. When the pregnancy does not advance, a woman can have feelings identical to the loss of a real child. This may give rise to emotions such as envy, grief, anxiety, and sadness. In such cases, a psychologist referral is appropriate.

Provide physical, emotional, and social support when assisting a heart­broken loved one to accept the truth. Be kind, gentle, and understand­ing without reinforcing the misconception. Now that you have the facts, you can appreciate that rare hysterical pregnancy is no joke and is definitely not funny.

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Updated: Mar 9, 2023

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