If you come across a story where a woman went to a doctor complaining of severe stomach pain and ended on a delivery table giving birth to a baby, don’t be in disbelief.This is 100% possible. It is absolutely possible that a woman could be pregnant but is totally unaware of it till she goes in labor. This kind of pregnancy is called Cryptic Pregnancy and has an incidence of 1:475. Cryptic pregnancy or Stealth Pregnancy goes unnoticed since it escapes the radar of a home pregnancy test or other medical tests that confirm pregnancy. Signs of pregnancy or pregnancy symptoms can be confused with other health issues and this can result in an entire pregnancy journey being travelled without awareness and care.
In cryptic pregnancy the HCG hormone (Human chorionic gonadotropin) that is produced by the placenta is either insignificant or completely absent. This results in negative blood and urine results. Also since this hormone is absent the symptoms of pregnancy are absent which results in fetus going undetected by both mother and doctor. The baby may not show up in an ultrasound either till the time of delivery.
Mothers who have been through this surprised or shocking journey of Cryptic Pregnancy have said that they were neither prepared nor aware of to expect a baby as a result of what they felt was a routine stomach ailment. Factors that can result in Cryptic pregnancy are:
Women suffering with PCOS have irregular periods and apparently end up confusing their missed period symptoms with irregular periods routine. This can be a major factor in noticing a possible pregnancy.
Sometimes birth control pills may not work and you could get pregnant. While you will not realise this since you trust your pill to take care of this, the pill may not harm the pregnancy either and you could bleed as per your pill cycle like regular cycles further ensuring a low awareness of being pregnant.
This is the time between when your period begins to slow down and you actually hit your menopause. A missed period due to pregnancy will not alarm you since you are more likely to believe in your perimenopausal symptoms which also mimick pregnancy symptoms.
Breastfeeding and period free: If you have just had your baby and you still haven’t started getting your periods, there is a possibility you could be pregnant. Your existing belly fat will hide the signs of pregnancy and you will blame breastfeeding for not getting your periods.
If you are athletic and have low body fat, it could cause the period to disappear also known as amenorrhea. You will not notice weight gain and absolutely miss noticing any pregnancy.
Cryptic Pregnancy will have similar symptoms as normal pregnancy but will be minimal and can be confused with PMS(Pre menstrual symptoms) other stomach issues. Symptoms of cryptic pregnancy could be either or all of these:
Cryptic Pregnancy can get traumatic if diagnosed too late. Since the entire prenatal care will be missing in this pregnancy, labor and birthing process could be difficult for both mother and baby. Due to lack of prenatal care, baby and mother could lack the required nutrition and supplements resulting in weak baby and long term health issues for both mother and baby. Pregnancy issues like gestational diabetes can go unnoticed and unattended.
One can avoid cryptic pregnancy by being more aware of the causes. Women in their birthing age and who have not completely achieved menopause should get a blood test done at least after 10 days of missing periods. An ultrasound done transvaginally shows better results and should be considered if there are symptoms of pregnancy after a missed period but not showing up on a pregnancy test kit or blood report. Overall never neglect a missed period and always have regular health checkups with your gynaecologist.