What Is A Cryptic Pregnancy?
A cryptic pregnancy, also known as a stealth pregnancy or a pregnancy that is not immediately obvious, is a rare occurrence in which a woman does not realize that she is pregnant until late into the pregnancy or until she gives birth. This can happen for various reasons, including irregular or infrequent periods, a lack of noticeable pregnancy symptoms, or misdiagnosis or misunderstanding of the symptoms. Cryptic pregnancies are relatively rare, but they can happen to anyone, regardless of age, health, or fertility.
In simple words Cryptic pregnancy is a medical condition when a female is unaware and unconscious of her pregnancy. It is also known as ‘stealth pregnancy.’ According to recent research, it occurs in 1 out of 475 pregnant women.
Is Cryptic Pregnancy Dangerous?
The danger of a cryptic pregnancy depends on various factors, including the woman’s overall health and the stage of the pregnancy at the time it is diagnosed. The earlier a pregnancy is diagnosed, the better the chances are for a healthy outcome.
Suppose a cryptic pregnancy is not diagnosed until the later stages. In that case, there may be an increased risk of complications such as preterm labor, placental abruption, or other problems related to a lack of prenatal care. In addition, a woman unaware that she is pregnant may engage in behaviors that could harm the pregnancy, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking certain medications.
A cryptic pregnancy occurs just like any other healthy pregnancy, but what is different here is the fact that women are oblivious to their pregnancies. As a result, women are unable to take care of themselves, and they continue with the unhealthy habits, which may include drinking alcohol, taking drugs or medications that may hinder the pregnancy or smoking, and may harm the unborn baby’s health.
For the same reason, the woman does not receive the antenatal care that every mother must get during her pregnancy. They only receive attention when they visit a doctor for their unclear symptoms, which is very late in the pregnancy. A woman becomes aware only when she has reached her second trimester or during the end of her first trimester because of the growing belly.
1. Pseudo-menstrual Bleeding
Some women experience blood spots. They consider it as menstruation and miscarriage, which is actually abnormal bleeding due to hormonal disturbance.
2. Hormonal Fluctuations
Sometimes due to oligomenorrhea and other psychological issues, women are unable to produce specific hormones involved in pregnancy, such as hCG. This gives rise to cryptic pregnancy.
3. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Women suffering from PCOS/PCOD are at higher chances of cryptic pregnancy as cysts in the tubes and uterus obstructs normal pathways resulting in abnormal hormonal production.
4. Birth Control Pills And IUDs
Sometimes, birth control pills and IUDs fail to work and control pregnancy. This can be due to compromised quality of pills or inappropriate timing of its intake. This causes cryptic pregnancy.
5. Athletic Activities
Lower body fat as a result of athletic activities and endurance exercises such as in female athletes causes hormonal imbalances. This is a significant factor in causing cryptic pregnancies.
6. Alterations In Genes
Alteration in genes of the baby can cause lower maternal involvement in pregnancy by diminishing the production of pregnancy hormones, which results in cryptic pregnancy.
How To Detect A Cryptic Pregnancy?
The cause of cryptic pregnancy is that it remains undetected for days and weeks. One of the main reasons is a negative pregnancy test. Following are the major pregnancy tests:-
This is the most common pregnancy test which detects the hCG level in the urine. hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is a hormone produced by pregnant ladies, but due to hormonal fluctuations this hormone is not produced in the required amount in the urine of some pregnant females resulting in cryptic pregnancy and negative urine test. It can be possible that the urine is too diluted to detect normal hCG level.
Blood tests are usually of two types:
Quantitative blood test enables one to know the exact amount of hCG. So it is rare to get this result negative if someone is pregnant.
Qualitative blood test shows only presence or absence of hCG. This test lacks accuracy and is imperceptible to detect cryptic pregnancy by this method.
It is possible that the pregnancy is undetectable in ultrasound reports.
(ULTRASOUND OF NORMAL PREGNANT WOMAN SHOWING HEAD OF FETUS)
(ULTRASOUND OF FEMALE WITH CRYPTIC PREGNANCY SHOWING BABY HEAD LEANING AGAINST THE BLADDER)
This is mainly due to two main reasons:-
1. When embryo is implanted irregularly and has deviated from the normal tract then it is not shown in the ultrasound reports.
2. When the uterus shape is not confined to its normal and original place it becomes difficult to detect pregnancy. Uterus can be retroflexed, retroverted , tipped and tilted that is sometimes uterus is tilted backwards from the belly towards the rectum and pelvis.
In order to detect the cryptic pregnancy it is advised the individual goes for a Doppler ultrasound which detects the baby’s blood circulation and enables one to get the confirmed and accurate results.
Risk factors related to cryptic pregnancy:
- Cryptic pregnancy is more common than we expect it to be. Every one pregnancy out of 500 pregnancies is cryptic. However, even after such a large number of women experiencing cryptic pregnancy, there is no risk factor established as to what may lead to a cryptic pregnancy.
- Doctors have to say little over the topic. It is because there is no interconnection of the condition with any other problem. When studying a woman who has cryptic pregnancy, doctors revealed that they are regular women with regular reasons to visit a gynecologist without knowing the fact that they are pregnant.
- Such women came from a background just like any other client with no particular psychological disorders to point at. Doctors are not even sure of what cohort do these women belong to, or what age group is most affected.
- For this reason, it becomes a challenge to diagnose a female with cryptic pregnancy. It is only possible to reach a diagnosis after thoroughly examining the woman who presents to the clinic with unclear symptoms of pregnancy.
Complications of cryptic pregnancy:
- A cryptic pregnancy puts both the mother and the baby at risk. A cryptic pregnancy is a complete surprise for a woman. A sudden revelation of a woman’s pregnancy can take a significant toll on her emotions. She may either be thrilled with the news, or she may feel loath the news.
- Either way, a woman has to face many mental and emotional challenges to accept her pregnancy. It is slightly accentuated because of the mood swings a woman has to go through due to her pregnancy hormones.
- On the other hand, if it is an unwanted pregnancy, a woman may fail to develop a bond with her newborn, which will consequently result in the child’s imperfect upbringing, which may even result in abuse and increase the chances of child neglect.
- All of these factors may severely hurt the child’s mental health and cause psychological disorders like no other. Unfortunately, it may even result in the baby’s death in the first few weeks of birth or later in life.
- On the contrary and even before the baby is born, a mother may not be mentally ready to give birth to the child, and she may not prepare for it. Subsequently, it will put the unborn baby at a higher risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Similarly, a premature baby would increase the chances of hospitalization. As a severe consequence, a baby may be born as stillbirth or may die at the time of birth.
Are there are psychiatric disorders involved?
Doctors have studied various cases, yet they have not concluded if psychiatric disorders have to play a significant role in the cryptic pregnancy of a woman. A majority of women who presented with such symptoms were found to belong to backgrounds just like any other person with good social and economic standing, and with excellent social support.
There was reason found as what may cause a mental disorder in a seemingly normal woman. On the other hand, an association of schizophrenia, depression, bipolarity, or any other psychiatric disorder has little to do with this medical condition. Very few women presented with a cryptic pregnancy with the coexistence of the mental problem.
What happens at the time of delivery?
A labor and delivery for cryptic pregnancy are similar to any other pregnancy. A woman may go through breakage of water, contractions, and dilations, just like any different pregnancy. A woman will feel the pain and experience what other women experience at the time of labor.
The birth of the baby is also the same. The baby may be born via the natural way or a c section. But what is different here is the lack of knowledge and the lack of care. Since women come to realize their pregnancy much later in their gestation period, they are unable to receive the care they should have like any other woman from the very start of the pregnancy.
Also, the emotional turmoil in her life may restrict her from getting the care that she needs during this time. As a consequence, a woman may not be ready to give birth, and she may have a mid-wife to help her out or a doctor to cater to her condition. It will naturally have an impact on the baby who may be born with difficulty, birth injuries, or prematurely.
Do the babies born as cryptic pregnancies need special care?
It entirely depends on the condition of the baby. If a mother received proper antenatal care and attention at the time birth, then there are little chances of the baby requiring hospitalization, or especially care.
On the other hand, if a baby is born with great difficulties, birth trauma, or premature birth with low birth weight, then it becomes essential to give extra attention, care, and treatment to the baby, or the baby even need hospital admission.
If the mother refuses to create a bond with the newborn at the time of birth, then there are more difficulties than usual when taking care of such neglected babies.
How Long Does A Cryptic Pregnancy Last?
The duration of the cryptic pregnancies can be as of normal pregnancies but it is noticed that cryptic pregnancies have a much longer time duration as compared to normal pregnancies which lasts for 280 days. Cryptic pregnancies can last as long as 315 days depending upon maternal and fetal activities and involvements. The longest cryptic pregnancy recorded was of 375 days. The reason for long gestation period is lower levels of hCG which results in foreshorten maternal involvement in the pregnancy. As a result placenta-fetus relationship will be poorly established causing substandard provision of nutrition and blood supply effectuating growth of baby . Thus fetus requires much time to grow as compared to the normal growth and development.
Symptoms Of A Cryptic Pregnancy:
These women have lack of normal symptoms that occur in pregnancies. Labor pain is the first real symptom of a cryptic pregnancy. It is same as in normal pregnancies but the mother will be facing more psychological issues such as stress and hypertension as she was previously unaware of her pregnancy and is not mentally ready . If following symptoms are shown in females they are at a greater chance of having cryptic pregnancy.
- Nausea / vomiting
- Muscular pain in legs, hips and thighs
- High glucose level
- Vaginal swelling
- Tenderness and swelling of breasts
- Hot flashes and cold sweats
- Laziness and sleepiness
- Back pain specifically lower back pain
Belly During A Cryptic Pregnancy
Belly size is the most significant factor in recognizing if a female is pregnant. Hence, in this way almost every woman is sure about the pregnancy after the first trimester. But sometimes if the woman is obese then protruding belly is not much obvious and is less noticeable. There may also be chances of retarded growth of the fetus due to lower maternal involvement the belly of the mother is not as protruded and noticeable in such cases.
Are Cryptic Pregnancies Real?
It is called as delusion of pregnancy by the doctors as it shows no signs and symptoms and the female carries out normal daily activities . Even though it is as real as the normal pregnancy. It follows same procedures of gestation period and labor as normal pregnancies.
A woman with this condition should consult her gynecologists’ for preventing cryptic pregnancies as oligomenorrhea and hormonal dis balance results in infelicitous and inappropriate growth of baby. This gives rise to further complications and pathologies. It is recorded that cryptic pregnancies give rise to high mortality rate and greater chances of miscarriages as compared to the normal pregnancies. This is due hormonal dis balance and inappropriate supply of nutrition to the fetus. Another reason is lack of care and proper attention in pregnancy as many of them are unaware of it and indulge themselves in activities that are harmful for the baby. APGAR score will enable one to know the level of anomaly and physical health of the baby.