Imagined Pregnancies While Trying to Conceive (TTC) are Common
Imagined pregnancy symptoms or the state of pseudocyesis is believed to be much more common than study statistics have previously shown. In some studies, over half of women initially believe themselves to be pregnant, only to receive a negative result in a medical setting. For example, The Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey published a study where 283 women requested a pregnancy test because they believed they were pregnant. Of the group of study participants, 58% turned out to not be pregnant. Even among women with previous pregnancy experience, 64% of such women who were not pregnant mistakenly believed they were. It is presumed that the overwhelming majority of these women who received negative results will not go on believing they are pregnant.
Although there are officially only up to six cases of imagined pregnancies for every 22,000 live births in the US, according to WebMD, the problem with this statistic is that it cannot count pseudocyesis figures for women who imagine the process of pregnancy taking place in their body between expected implantation times and expected missed periods. Women generally do not go to the doctor during this time, and as a result there is a plethora of missing information on the psychological state of these women.
Except in advanced cases of longer-term imagined or false pregnancy, as in the WebMD statistic above, pseudocyesis is generally limited to the time period until a woman gets her next menses. In a woman that has a 30-day cycle, there is generally a two-week period between ovulation and expected menses. If a woman is intimate with a man while ovulating, this tight two-week period can result in imagined pregnancy, where a woman believes she is experiencing implantation and early pregnancy symptoms.
Do you plan to become pregnant?
Common Imagined Pregnancy Symptoms:
- Increased flow of cervical mucus
- Crying spells
- Sleep disturbance
- Heart rate changes
- Imagined implantation cramping
- Feeling warmer (increased body temperature)
- Healthy food cravings
- Tenderness of breast tissue
It should be noted that women can commonly experience many of the symptoms above outside of TTC, within a regular menstrual cycle, or due to other medical causes. It is easy to falsely conclude that one is pregnant before any sort of medical confirmation is given.
Problems with Menstrual Cycles After False Pregnancies
Women with temporary pseudocyesis can even experience problems afterwards with their menstrual cycles. According to a study published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, stress can cause women to have more painful periods or dysmenorrhea. Some women with false pregnancy will actually believe that a more painful period is actually an early miscarriage.
On top of that, some women with imagined or false pregnancies can have their periods delayed because of hormonal and psychological reactions/stress of believing they are pregnant. According to Medicalnewstoday.com, emotional stress can cause irregular periods.
What is Pseudocyesis Caused by?
According to WebMD.com and Womens-health.co.uk,
- An intense desire to be pregnant or state of trying to conceive (TTC)
- Approaching later years of fertility
- Experience of having previous miscarriages
- Infertility issues
- Pituitary gland issues (the center of hormone production during pregnancy) and an unusually high level of hormones sparked by stress and anxiety that causes emotional and psychological changes leading a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant
There are also accompanying situational theories for imagined pregnancy, such as desiring to keep a spouse who wants children, having mourned the death of a previous child, competition with siblings that already have children, or satisfying parents who want grandchildren.
Common Aftereffects of Imagined Pregnancy or Pseudocyesis
- Feeling let down after getting a period
- Believing oneself to be "crazy" or mentally ill
- Self-doubt in future accomplishments
Winding up not pregnant after a woman very strongly believes herself to be can be a traumatizing experience for her. There is much research to be done on early onset imagined pregnancy, for the two-week period before expected missed menses.
What can be done to help women?
Until there is a way to address the issue more thoroughly, it is wise to discuss any pregnancy planning, symptoms, and mental health issues you concerned about with a medical professional. It is also good to have a general understanding that there are similarities in pregnancy symptoms to signs of general menstrual cycle stages.
And since stress from TTC can cause reproductive health disturbances, one of the best things you can do is take a deep breath, be easy on yourself, and enjoy intimacy with your spouse.