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Can you really not know you're pregnant?

Believe it or not, some pregnant women are apparently not aware that they are pregnant until they go into labor and deliver the baby. The word "cryptic" is a Greek word and it means "mysterious" or "obscure" or "hidden or ambiguous meaning", so a cryptic pregnancy is a mysterious or obscure, hidden pregnancy.

Contrary to Healthline, a cryptic/stealth pregnancy is not a pregnancy when "conventional testing methods fail to detect a mother is carrying a child." The truth is pregnancy can usually be detected with modern medicine, especially with certain blood tests or advanced sonograms. 

Cryptic pregnancy is not so different from a denial of pregnancy. Denial of pregnancy is an important condition that is more common than expected, with an incidence at 20 weeks gestation of approximately 1 in 475. It is often considered a taboo in many societies. The proportion of cases persisting until delivery is about 1 in 2500, According to the authors of a 2019 publication, denial of pregnancy (DOP) is a "challenging condition with poorly understood psychopathology." DOP is reported to be associated with problems such as severe psychological conflicts, obstetric complications, risks to the newborn, and difficulties in bonding with the infant. 

What's the difference between a cryptic pregnancy and pregnancy denial?

In pregnancy denial, the woman is subconsciously aware of her pregnancy but denies its existence while in a cryptic pregnancy the woman may or may not be aware that she is pregnant and claims that she does not know that she is pregnant until labor and delivery. 

In a publication from 2007 the authors say that "very often, bodily symptoms of pregnancy (nausea, amenorrhea and abdomen swelling) are absent or greatly reduced. and neonates tend to be underweight; and/or have intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). In many cases, pregnancy goes undetected also by relatives and physicians."

There may be several reasons a woman may not be aware of the pregnancy such as:

  • Obesity
  • Not realizing the period was missed
  • No pregnancy symptoms
  • Supposed negative urine and blood tests
  • A small fetus 

In a 2018 study, the researchers report that children born to mothers with denial of pregnancy do worse and should be monitored more closely throughout childhood.

Read More:
What Is a Denied Pregnancy?
Pseudocyesis: What Is a Phantom or False Pregnancy?
How to Manage Bipolar Disorder During Pregnancy