• Grace Health

Can I Be Pregnant & Not Know?

There’s a chance you’ve probably heard of a story of a woman who did not know that she was pregnant until the time she was going into labour. Now, you must be thinking with all the pregnancy symptoms how can you miss that a baby has been growing inside you for that long? You’ll be surprised to know that it is more common than you think. In fact, there’s a name for it. It’s called Cryptic Pregnancy and is defined as when a person does not know they are pregnant until about halfway through pregnancy or even up until labour or birth.



They may have some symptoms of pregnancy that can be easily overlooked or no symptoms at all—including no baby bump. Others may not realize they are pregnant because of mental health or medical condition that either mask pregnancy symptoms or leaves them in denial about the pregnancy (or the possibility of getting pregnant in the first place).


Are there no symptoms?

During a cryptic pregnancy, it can be difficult to notice the usual signs of pregnancy. However, that does not mean there were no signs of pregnancy—they just might have been so few or so vague that they went unnoticed or ignored. Symptoms like fatigue; nausea and vomiting ("morning sickness"); missed periods, and abdominal swelling may be absent in a cryptic pregnancy. But if they had these symptoms it could be they were not as intense or obvious and so they did not give them much thought. Take for example excusing a missed period for an irregular cycle or thinking that morning sickness is an upset stomach or a reaction to something you ate.


So how does it happen?

It’s a bit difficult to pinpoint a cryptic pregnancy. Here are a few factors that contribute to a person not realizing that they are pregnant:

  • Age and fertility- Pregnancy symptoms can be similar to early menopause symptoms. If you've struggled with getting pregnant in the past, you may find it hard to believe that you could be pregnant.

  • Irregular menstrual cycle- For someone who may not experience as many periods per year, that is if your cycle is longer than the common average of 28 days the absence of a period may not be an immediate red flag for pregnancy.

  • Irregular spotting- Bleeding and spotting that can occur during pregnancy can easily be mistaken for a light period

  • Inaccurate pregnancy test results- Pregnancy tests are usually very accurate, but errors do happen, especially if a person does not test the right way or at the best time. Remember, even though it’s rare, a pregnancy test can be negative even when it’s positive.

  • Birth control use- Even when used correctly, it's possible to become pregnant when you're on birth control. People using contraception may not think they could be pregnant and ignore the signs.

  • Lack of pregnancy symptoms- Common pregnancy symptoms like nausea, pelvic cramping, lower back pain, and a bigger abdomen do not always show up in every person.

  • No prominent “baby bump-” Some people do not gain much weight or start to "show" until later in pregnancy.

  • Not feeling the baby move- The location of the fetus and placenta can sometimes make it hard to feel movement. This means it will take longer to feel fetal movements and they can be trickier to recognize.

  • Recent pregnancy- Ovulation can occur sooner than you'd think after you've had a baby. That said, the early signs of pregnancy may not be as clear in someone who recently gave birth.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)- can cause hormonal imbalances that throw off ovulation. This can lead to an unexpected pregnancy that may go unnoticed.

  • Mental health conditions- People with certain mental health conditions may find it harder to comprehend and accept the reality of pregnancy. They might be in denial or not understand that they are pregnant.

Are there any risks?

Not recognizing pregnancy even for a short time can be dangerous for both the fetus and the pregnant person. If a person does not realize they're pregnant, they won't get prenatal care and miss out on prenatal tests that are necessary for a safe and healthy pregnancy. Another thing is that when a person doesn’t know that they are pregnant and consume substances like alcohol or tobacco or certain medications, it could lead to damage to the fetus and birth defects.


Additionally, If cryptic pregnancy lasts up until the time of birth, a person may not realize that they are in labour. If they don't get to a hospital, they may even have to deliver the baby on their own without any help.


What happens when I find out I have a cryptic pregnancy?

As challenging as it may be, it's possible to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy birth. If you are diagnosed before you go into labour you can still talk to your doctor about prenatal care. Giving birth is quite something. Anxiety, doubt, and exhaustion after having a baby are only- normal. However, if you have irritability, sadness, persistent doubts about caring for your baby, loss of interest in the activities that you used to love, and do not feel like you can bond with your baby, talk to your doctor right away. Remember that postpartum depression is common and can be treated.


In summary

As unreal as it may sound, cryptic pregnancies do happen and they could happen to just about anyone. If you fall under any of the factors that could contribute to a pregnancy going unnoticed it is important that you are extra cautious and do not brush off any symptoms for something else without having a pregnancy test done and confirmed. Remember you can still have a healthy pregnancy and birth after you find out.

Stay informed, stay in control Did you learn something today?


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