You are pregnant, but you don’t know that you are. Sounds queer, but this is a reality. In medical parlance it is known as cryptic pregnancy. Some of the main causes of cryptic pregnancy includes Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), recent pregnancy, low body fat, birth control pills, early menopause and stress.
What is Cryptic Pregnancy?
Women suffering from such queer pregnancy don’t come to know that they are pregnant until about 20 weeks of pregnancy. Alas, even doctors cannot diagnose her to be pregnant. Doctors depend on HCG test to see whether a woman is pregnant or not.
HCG is Human Chorionic Gonadotropin hormone which is released by the placenta and is significantly elevated in pregnant women. But women suffering from cryptic pregnancy have little or no HCG in their reproductive system.
As a result, urine HCG test does not throw up a positive report for pregnancy. But they are pregnant for real, and they come to know about that until around the 20th weak. Cryptic pregnancy is not common, it affects about 1 in 500 women. But for those who are affected by it, it is a mystery and so it is for the doctors.
Read More: 21 Early Signs or Indicators of Pregnancy
6 Main Causes for Cryptic Pregnancy
Though the exact reasons for cryptic pregnancy are not yet known, there are several factors that can be attributed to this condition. Problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome, very early menopause, recent pregnancy, very low body fat, some birth control pills, stress etc can precipitate cryptic pregnancy.
Let us see how these factors can increase your chances of cryptic pregnancy. But one thing that is common to all these factors is the risk of hormonal imbalance.
If you are suffering from this disease, you must have been diagnosed with multiple number of small cysts on your ovaries. Even the ovaries may get enlarged due to these. These are neither malignant nor harmful, but can precipitate hormonal imbalances in your body.
If you had been pregnant recently, your hormones may not have stabilized at their usual level within this time. It needs some time for the hormone levels to get back to their levels prior to pregnancy. This can create an imbalance in the level of various hormones. If you indulge in unprotected sex during this window of time, you may have a cryptic pregnancy since the level of HCG may not be detectable or significant at this time.
Read More: Importance of Postpartum Checkups
Low Body fat
If you have very low body fat then you are susceptible to hormonal imbalance. Female hormones like estrogen are dependent on body fat. This is because the thighs in women have several estrogen receptors. These receptors bind with estrogen produced in the body of women. The production of estrogen is controlled by the pituitary gland, but it is produced in the placenta, the organ that appears during pregnancy and disappears after child birth.
When body fat becomes too low the gland reduces the production of estrogen. Estrogen has a strong bearing on the symptoms of pregnancy like growth of breasts, morning sickness, weight gain etc. Not only that, it also regulates the production of other hormones like HCG. So very low body fat may result in suppression of estrogen which may then lead to suppression of symptoms as well as suppression of production of HCG, the marker of pregnancy.
Some birth control pills may release hormones which have the effect of suppressing the normal hormones in women. Some birth control pills are high in progesterone. But if you have already conceived a child, but still continue to take contraceptives, the pill will rather help your pregnancy while you are still unaware of pregnancy.
Very early menopause
If you have just started to show the signs of menopause then it is very likely that pregnancy symptoms will not show up. Menopause can start as early as in the 30s of a woman and in such cases pregnancy often goes unnoticed.
High stress level may well contribute to cryptic pregnancy. If you are under tremendous stress, your body will have high levels of stress hormones. This has the capacity to create a hormonal imbalance. If you are pregnant during this time the symptoms of pregnancy may not become obvious. You may not be aware of your pregnancy.
7 Symptoms of Cryptic Pregnancy
It is astonishing to see that the symptoms of cryptic pregnancy are almost the same as a normal pregnancy. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Gradual weight gain and also weight loss in some women
- Frequent urination
- Abdominal cramping
- Loss of appetite
- Back, leg and hip pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
How to confirm a cryptic pregnancy?
It is quite disturbing to note that cryptic pregnancy is usually not confirmed via urine tests or blood tests. Even ultrasound scans are not able to detect such pregnancies. One way to confirm cryptic pregnancy is by using a Doppler along with a finger pulse. The Doppler can help in monitoring the fetal heart rate. Since you might have normal periods during cryptic pregnancy, it is not easy to detect the same through this method as well.
Can you be pregnant for years – cryptic pregnancy?
There are different kinds of opinions when it comes to the time span of cryptic pregnancy. Since the babies in this kind of pregnancy grow at alarmingly slower rates, the pregnancy can span for more than 40 weeks. Many cases of cryptic pregnancies have been reported to have lasted for 2-5 years.
How can cryptic pregnancy be prevented?
Being aware is the only way in which cryptic pregnancy can be prevented. Women in the reproductive age of their life should be careful and aware of their body. In fact, any woman in this age should know that she might have cryptic pregnancy. If changes or pain are noted in the pelvic region or in the abdomen, it is important to get in touch with a doctor immediately. Also, many women do not have regular periods. This is a matter of concern and the gynecologist must be informed about the same. In case any problem persists, treatments need to be done for the same. All this will be done after a thorough check up.
How long does a cryptic pregnancy last?
As mentioned earlier, the gestation period of a cryptic pregnancy is way longer than that of a normal pregnancy. This happens because the fetus cannot develop properly due to the lack of hCG hormones and because they cannot be absorbed by the body. Moreover, regular menstruation also lengthens the gestation period for quite some time. Heavy flow during the menstrual cycle indicates towards a longer gestation period. It might take almost 40 weeks in a cryptic pregnancy for the delivery to take place. In many cases, the time span is even 2-5 years.
How to manage my pregnancy when I have cryptic pregnancy?
The biggest problem with cryptic pregnancy is that it remains undetected till quite an advanced stage. In fact, in many cases, it gets detected when the woman is in labor. Therefore, pregnancy management during cryptic pregnancy is something which is difficult to do. However, once the pregnancy is detected, say after 20 weeks or so, care should be taken as in normal pregnancy. There should be an emphasis on good nutrition and other prenatal care.
It is difficult for a woman to become aware of pregnancy if she is suffering from cryptic pregnancy. You may not have symptoms like morning sickness, high weight gain etc. Moreover, you may also have mild and irregular menstruation. You may also have vaginal bleeding with spotting. The symptoms can be so mischievous sometimes that you may not at all be aware of your pregnancy until you get labor pain. However, in most cases women become aware within 20 weeks or so.