Hysterical pregnancy (pseudocyesis) has many other names which run more commonly into false pregnancy, feigned pregnancy, imaginary pregnancy, spurious pregnancy, or phantom pregnancy. This 'pregnancy' is not really a pregnancy even though all the normal pregnancy symptoms are present. Hysterical pregnancy symptoms are often brought about due to a mental illness. Let us firstly try and understand what a hysterical pregnancy is all about and how it is brought about.
What is Hysterical Pregnancy
Hysterical pregnancy comes about in women who are craving to become mothers, but cannot. Their desire to become pregnant is so strong that they convince themselves that they really are pregnant. In this manner, they start believing that they have conceived, and their reinforcements to the brain are so strong that the cerebrum starts believing that they are pregnant. The brain cannot differentiate between reality and imagination, and it begins to develop symptoms of a true pregnancy. The endocrine system also makes sufficient changes that lead to the false pregnancy.
This kind of pregnancy is often compared to a fight or flight response in humans. For example, if we imagine something dangerous on a lonely road, our hearts begin to beat faster―even though there might not really be anything there. It is the same phenomenon that works with a hysterical pregnancy.
The other reason that a hysterical pregnancy can develop is due to depression. Depression and delusion can alter the activity of the pituitary gland and cause severe hormonal changes in the body. These changes can lead to the development of these symptoms.
The symptoms that are experienced during hysterical pregnancy are similar to the symptoms of a normal pregnancy. Here are some of them:
- Weight gain
- Breast tenderness
- Morning sickness
- Amenorrhoea (the absence of menstruation in a woman of reproductive age)
- Abdominal bloating (this happens due to a build up of gas, fat, and other body waste)
- Menstrual irregularity
- Sensations of movements in the abdomen
- Uterine enlargement
- Labor pains
- Softening of the cervix
- Positive urine tests
- Positive pregnancy test
- There may be changes in the cervix as well.
- Changes in the appetite
- Mood swings
- False labor or childbirth
The regular form of treatment does not seem to work in this scenario. Since there is no physical underlying cause, but is in most cases, a psychological base to the problem, the method of treatment are different.
Whatever the physical symptoms that are present, like bloating, missed period, and weight gain―these can be handled in their regular manner. A regular physician will work to eliminate these. However, before handling the physical aspects, the psychological aspects like delusion and depression need to be cared for. For this, a psychologist or a psychiatrist needs to be consulted. These mental illnesses need to be cured first because there is a chance the false pregnancy will return if the main underlying cause is not cured.
In most cases, the woman who experiences the symptoms is so convinced that she is having a baby that other methods need to be employed. An ultrasound that depicts no fetus in the womb seems to works successfully. Other than this method, methods like hypnosis, giving purgatives or laxatives, massage therapies, and other medications might work.
It has been shown that women who have had experiences of incest are more likely to develop hysterical pregnancy symptoms. So also women who have had children before or have lost their child might develop these symptoms.
Disclaimer - This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.