False pregnancy (Pseudocyesis) is a rare condition in which a non-pregnant woman believes that she is pregnant, even though there is no physical evidence of pregnancy. Women with false pregnancy also known as pseudopregnancy or pseudocyesis will often experience real pregnancy symptoms.It occurs in about one to six of every 22,000 births in the United States.
Causes of False Pregnancy in Women
Although this condition has yet to be fully explained, experts believe that there is a strong emotional and psychological underpinning pseudocyesis.
Psychologists believe that women who experience false pregnancy have an extremely strong desire to be pregnant and experience the process of pregnancy. Women who have false pregnancies tend to experience false pregnancy symptoms around the same time that their relatives and friends are experiencing pregnancy. Research has also linked false pregnancy to the pituitary gland (which is the centre of hormone production during pregnancy) and specifically, to an unusually high level of hormones. This hormone imbalance is often sparked by stress and anxiety, which in turn causes the emotional and psychological shifts that lead a woman to falsely believe she is expecting. False Pregnancy Symptoms Women with a false pregnancy can have typical pregnancy symptoms such as:
It is medically unclear why women experiencing pseudopregnancy sometimes exhibit true physical signs of pregnancy.
False Pregnancy Diagnosis
A pregnancy test such as a urine or blood test or a sonogram will usually show no pregnancy, but nevertheless women with pseudocyesis will insist they are pregnant due to a deeply-rooted desire to be pregnant.
False Pregnancy: Which Women are Most at Risk?
Women who are most at risk for pseudocyesis are:
Treating False Pregnancy
Psychological counseling is usually recommended in order to treat underlying emotional and psychological causes of false pregnancy, including stress, anxiety and depression.