What is a Phantom Pregnancy?
Phantom pregnancy (or pseudocyesis) is a rare condition that results in a woman (or even a man) believing they are pregnant, displaying the symptoms of pregnancy but with no foetus present. People who experience phantom pregnancy will usually have many of the same symptoms as a pregnant women including weight gain, swollen belly, menstrual irregularity, nausea, engorged breasts and increased hormones.
- Phantom pregnancy is a rare condition that results in a woman believing they are pregnant
A phantom pregnancy may only last as long as it takes to confirm that a pregnancy isn’t taking place e.g. with an ultrasound. But it’s also possible for them to carry on for the full 9 months or even longer.
How common are phantom pregnancies?
Phantom pregnancies is are a very rare condition, with cases actually dropping in the past century. It now only occurs in around 1-6 for every 22,000 births.
What causes a phantom pregnancy to occur?
The exact cause of phantom pregnancy isn’t known, but it thought that it could be a mixture of psychological and physical issues that lead to the body being ‘tricked’ into thinking it’s pregnant.
This could be when a woman experiences a strong desire to be pregnant, either because of infertility, repeat miscarriages, or impending menopause. This can cause the body to produce symptoms similar to those of early pregnancy which the brain then confuses with real pregnancy signals and begins releasing hormones that lead to further pregnancy symptoms.
Treatment of a phantom pregnancy
Finding out you’re experience a phantom pregnancy can be a testing and upsetting time for the woman. The most successful treatment for a phantom pregnancy is the use of an ultrasound or other imaging device to show that there isn’t a foetus developing. Often a phantom pregnancy is a sign of an underlying psychological issue, e.g. severe depression.
In these situations a doctor or health professional will recommend psychological support, including therapy to help deal with the phantom pregnancy and to recover from it.