What Is A Phantom Pregnancy? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What Is A Phantom Pregnancy? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is A phantom pregnancy?

A woman goes through many bodily changes when she is pregnant because of the hormones and the growing fetus in the uterus. But in some extremely rare cases, a woman goes through the same body changes as a pregnant woman does, but the odd fact is such women are not carrying a life in their uteruses. This is known as a false pregnancy, phantom pregnancy, or in medical terminology; it is called pseudocyesis. 

This phenomenon is very rare to occur. Every symptom or most symptoms of pregnancy occur except for the presence of fetal tissues.

What are the causes of a phantom pregnancy?

Doctors are struggling to find an answer as to why this phenomenon occurs. It still confuses many people if this actually happens or is a person feigning a pregnancy. But in theories, it is said that this can most possibly occur because of psychological reasons.

If a woman has been trying to get pregnant so hard for a very long time, but each time her pregnancy resulted in a failure for reasons like recurrent miscarriages, structural abnormalities, infertility, or any other reason, then it may psychologically affect her and her body to a certain extent.

Other reasons may include a person who is already suffering from psychological illness schizophrenia. In this condition, a woman has delusions that she is pregnant, and then her body reacts in the same way.

Although rare, a woman’s brain tricks her body into thinking that it is pregnant and carrying a child. When this happens, the pregnancy hormones like estrogen and prolactin that bring about the physical symptoms of pregnancy. A woman often presents to a doctor with such signs with a firm belief that she has real symptoms and that she is pregnant.

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What are the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy?

All the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy are the ones found in an actual pregnancy.

  • Tender breasts
  • Milk production
  • Changed in the appearance of the nipples
  • Swollen belly
  • Lower back pain
  • Increase in weight
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • False labor pains
  • Presence of fetal movements
  • Missed periods

While most symptoms are due to the actions of the hormones like estrogen and prolactin, which are also released in pregnancy. On the other hand, the swelling of the belly occurs because of the buildup of:

  • Fecal material
  • A lot of gas
  • Urine
  • Fat cells

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What tests can be done for phantom pregnancy?

The tests done for a regular pregnancy are the same tests that are performed to rule out phantom pregnancy. A doctor may ask you a few questions from you. And then, they may also do a pelvic examination on you to check for the enlargement of the uterus or for the presence of the fetus in the uterus. Your cervix may also be examined whether it is opened or close.

The most definitive test to confirm a pregnancy is to perform an ultrasound. This will prove to the doctor and the woman that it is a phantom pregnancy as no fetal tissues were detected on the ultrasound.

Likewise, a urine dip test that checks for the presence of the pregnancy hormone called beta HCG in urine. And if it is a phantom pregnancy, then the urine pregnancy test would also come out negative. a

What is the treatment for phantom pregnancy?

There is no treatment for phantom pregnancy because it does bring any real changes to the body. But for issues like missed periods for a long period has to be treated by the doctor.

Similarly, since phantom pregnancy is a psychological problem, it has to be dealt with very carefully by a doctor. A psychotherapist should be present on board to break the news to the person.

It may make a woman devastated to know that all of her experiences were false for all the past months. Hence, it is crucial to break the news very professionally, so that the person’s mental conditions do not worsen after learning the truth.

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