Also known as pseudosciesis, psychological or utopian pregnancy is a condition that includes authentic characteristics of an actual pregnancy, but there is no fetus in the embryonic sac.
This causes a woman to believe she is pregnant and to present symptoms that support this presumption, including discomfort, absence of menstruation, and even increased abdominal volume.
These symptoms may last for weeks, the 9 months of pregnancy, and even years.
However, there is no pregnancy; it is a rather interesting psychological disorder. The reason is that it’s not a woman pretending to be pregnant, or pretending to be. But her conscious and subconscious desire is so strong that it ends up translating into what looks like a pregnancy but is not.
In this sense, it would be very interesting to know how common psychological pregnancy is, what its causes are, its specific symptoms and how it can be treated.
It is important to point out that not only women present this type of symptoms; it has also been evidenced in dogs and less commonly in men.
How common is a psychological pregnancy?
It’s not a common condition, but it could happen to any woman.
The statistics are inconclusive, some establish that only 1 in 22,000 women suffer from this condition. However, others say that 1 in 30,000 women suffer from it.
Whatever the incidence between these numbers, it happens in absolutely extreme cases.
In historical cases, the incidence of psychological pregnancies occurs with women between the ages of 20 and 40. However, it has also occurred in older women and even in women with menopause. The common factor among all these pregnancies are women with very high levels of stress from not being able to conceive a child.
Historically, the number of psychological pregnancies has decreased over time. This is because there are now many options through which a woman can become pregnant; and these assisted reproductive techniques have greatly reduced stress in this area.
What causes a psychological pregnancy?
The first cause of a psychological pregnancy is pressure stress. This can come from many sources, a woman may be pressured by a group of friends, her family and outside agents who make her feel that she must be pregnant to be accepted.
The pressure can even come from your partner who, upon marriage, wants to establish a family quickly.
It can even be presented in cases of guilt. There are cases where a girl has become pregnant out of fear of pregnancy or guilt after unprotected sex. In other words, so much “paranoia” develops from the sexual relationship that the woman could claim to be pregnant and this is reflected in her body as such.
Amenorrhea is also taken as a cause. This is when a woman does not have her menstrual period or has it irregularly and is the symbol of other more serious and worthy of study.
It is correct to assume that a woman who has no control over when her monthly bleeding comes and has constant sexual intercourse may believe that she is pregnant at any time. By exerting this pressure on your mind, you can contract a psychological pregnancy.
Pseudocyesis is a totally mental ailment. It’s in a woman’s brain and it’s caused only by this. There are no biological causes that can trigger such a pregnancy.
The Assisted Reproduction Organization calls this condition “absent gestation” and establishes that it generally occurs at reproductive age in women who have some type of psychological problem and who suffer anxiety for not being able to conceive in a natural or artificial way.
Many infertile women have had this type of pregnancy after many times attempting to become pregnant without success.
Other possible causes are related to the main one, however specific facts can trigger the mental attack that develops the psychological pregnancy. These facts could be:
- Low self-esteem
- Childhood sexual abuse
- Large focal points of emotional stress
- Proximity to menopause
What are the symptoms of a psychological pregnancy?
As mentioned, the symptoms of a pseudosciesis are similar to those of a normal pregnancy. These symptoms include
Absence of menstruation or amenorrhea:
It is one of the main indicators that a woman is pregnant. It is characterized by the total or partial disappearance of the woman from conception. It is in this way that women suffering from pseudosciesis are alerted that they may be pregnant.
Morning sickness and cravings:
Just as when a woman is actually pregnant, a psychological pregnancy could carry nausea and even vomiting as a symptom and also cravings regarding eating habits. In this way, the woman may also have headache, heartburn, and a feeling of heaviness in the legs.
3.- Increase in breast size and milk production:
The whole organism of a woman suffering from pseudocyesis is preparing to have a child, so her breasts are preparing to breastfeed the baby, even if the baby is not real. The reason is that the condition modifies the mammary glands so that they can secrete milk and colostrum. This is why your breasts grow and produce breast milk just like in a normal pregnancy.
4.- Subjective sensation of fetal movements
Psychological pregnancy can even create the impression that the baby is growing inside its mother’s womb, and this kicks and moves. Of course, many women with this condition have expressed that they feel the baby move within them.
However, no external person touching your belly feels the baby. This is a movement generated in your mind that gives a sense of hyperrealism.
5.- Increase in abdominal volume
The belly of a woman with a psychological pregnancy is relaxed by modifying her posture. The accumulation of certain fluids, including amniotic fluid, makes this distension possible.
This occurs months after diagnosed psychological pregnancy, such as in a real one. The distension of the muscles of the abdomen has allowed surprising growths in a woman’s belly even though there is no baby inside her.
6.- False-positive pregnancy tests
This is specifically on home pregnancy tests. It is common for utopian pregnancy to test positive on home tests.
The reason is, these tests measure the gonadotropins in the body secreted in the urine. Depending on the pressure exerted mentally on the body, this hormone in the hypothalamus may be triggered in large doses.
7.- Weight gain and lordosis
This increase has been shown to be even greater than that of actual pregnancies. The belly can even take shape similar to the belly of a pregnant woman and it is possible that the weight causes the lumbar spine to curve into the weight product, this phenomenon is called lordosis.
8.- Intrauterine contractions
Similarly, a woman with a utopian pregnancy may believe that she is about to give birth. This is because the contractions are as strong as in a natural pregnancy. The difference is that these are not accompanied by the breaking of the fountain and the birth itself.
9.- Sleep disorders
The most common of them is insomnia, this is also a product of their state of anxiety. In the same way, they can develop serious paranoia by caring for their pregnancy status or the need to get rid of it.
10.- Hidden emotional needs
The common denominator in women who become pregnant in this way is a hidden emotional need expressed in physical symptoms. These women respond to a profile of profound lack of affection, need for social acceptance, fear and insecurity regarding sexual relations and pregnancy or depression due to deep loneliness.
Depression itself is often the basis of all psychological pregnancies. And while being depressed is quite common among people, prolonged exposure to these kinds of feelings and behaviors lead to more serious conditions.
Second, anxiety and anguish can cause any woman to “believe a very real lie” and end up having a pregnancy of this type. This is why it is important to review the causes behind the condition, because when treating the symptomatology the effects disappear.
How is a real pregnancy different from a psychological pregnancy?
Actually, it is easy to confuse a utopian pregnancy with a real one, but there are certain signs that can free this confusion:
- In an actual pregnancy the hormone Gonadotropin Chorionic (BhCG) is produced, whereas in a utopian this hormone is not present as such. The reason is that this hormone is produced by the placenta during gestation; if there is no placenta, the hormone will not be present.
- When a pregnant woman’s belly actually grows, the belly button hole disappears, that is, the belly button “pops out”. This is due to the pressure exerted by the embryonic sac on the navel, which does not happen in a psychological pregnancy because there is no sac that exerts pressure.
What should I do if I suspect a psychological pregnancy?
If a woman suspects that her pregnancy may be psychological, the first step is to observe the characteristics of her pregnancy and see a doctor immediately.
Following this, a pregnancy test should be done in a laboratory. Specifically a blood test that performs the BhCG count and defines whether it matches the hormone levels present in a pregnant woman’s body.
The woman should also have an abdominal ultrasound to show if the uterus is empty or if the pregnancy is indeed real.
Side effects of some pills should also be checked. It has been confirmed that some drugs can stop or inhibit dopamine production and this can lead to the symptoms of a false pregnancy that a woman might confuse.
Finally, women who have milk secretion in their breasts should perform studies in their breasts that rule out the presence of a tumor in the pituitary gland. This is in charge of milk production in the breasts.
What is the treatment for psychological pregnancy?
After the psychological pregnancy is diagnosed, the woman should immediately be referred to a psychiatrist to treat her psychological symptoms and deal with her anxiety and depression. Companionship is critical at this point, as women who suffer this type of disappointment tend to worsen their symptoms.
The treatment itself consists first of all in convincing the woman that she is not pregnant and that everything has been a figment of her imagination.
This is really difficult because pseudosciesis is simply a mental escape mechanism for a constant state of psychological stress and adversity.
Secondly, progressive psychological therapies are carried out. In addition, women who have suffered utopian pregnancies are encouraged to attend support groups and individual therapies as well as to share their emotions and experiences with friends or family.
This is because of the need for support from other people so that the symptoms of depression and anxiety do not become more severe.
Experts reflect that rather than attacking the psychological pregnancy, a woman’s personality disorder must be treated so that the symptom no longer occurs. That is, pseudosciesis is seen as an end to a longstanding anxiety disorder and depression.
In many cases, women are given hormonal treatment to control the disorder that arises from the belief that the body is in a state of gestation.
Likewise, the woman can perform physical exercises to recover her normal figure while the liquids that generated the growth in the abdomen are discarded in a natural way by the organism.
Is it possible for a man to become psychologically pregnant?
According to experts, there are cases that describe “psychological pregnancies in men” resulting from the same stress that their partners live.
Symptoms have included nausea, cravings, weight gain, and in rare cases secretion of some hormones and belly growth.
According to the president of the Spanish Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the most common thing is for men to mimic their partner’s situation. That is, your wife is pregnant and they have similar or common symptoms with the pregnancy. “If one’s nauseous, the other’s nauseous. If one vomits, the other goes behind. If one gains weight, so does the man. And so on until she gives birth,“ she explained during a conference. This disorder is called Couvade syndrome.
The reason for this is that many men have serious personality disorders. For this reason, it is necessary for them to copy characteristics of others in order to reaffirm their position. This means that if the woman (logically) receives more attention than he does, then he may unconsciously supply her symptoms to recreate this attention.
Psychological pregnancy in animals
Pregnancy in dogs
This disorder is much more common in animals, specifically in bitches, although cases have also been seen in cats and rabbits.
It has been shown that at least 6 out of 10 sterilized dogs suffer this type of pregnancy. This is not a disease as such but a hormonal imbalance usually caused by the castration of the bitches and how the zeal develops after that castration.
As with women, the symptoms of bitches who have pseudosciesis are similar to those of actual pregnancy. These symptoms include stopping menstruation (and thus heat), milk production in the breasts and growth of the belly of the animal.
In addition, there may be several unknowns regarding utopian pregnancy in bitches:
When does it happen?
Usually occurs between one and two months after the dog’s heat although there has been no fertilization as such, ie it is not necessary to have been mounted by a dog.
Unlike women, dogs do not suffer anxiety of the same type as them, so the fictitious pregnancy is produced because the hormones that their ovaries make the body behave congruent with their appearance.
How long does it last?
It could only last a couple of days. In most cases, bitches suffer pregnancy symptoms and then they disappear. The most common of these is the growth of the breasts as a product of pseudogestation. This is because the hormones progesterone and estradiol increase and make breastfeeding possible.
The animal should be carefully observed and if symptoms persist the animal should be taken immediately to a doctor.
Changes in pet behavior
It is also common that during this type of disorder, the animal comes to think and behave as if it were pregnant or already has the puppies.
Among the behavioral alterations is the adoption of rags or dolls that care as if they were their children, also may be tired or anxious, as well as wander around the house trying to hide or looking for a place to give birth.
What to do about the fictitious pregnancy of a dog?
First take the animal to the veterinarian to check the assumption and see if their breasts produce too much milk. This is because the production of milk without being consumed could cause mastitis and other disorders in the behavior of the animal.
The veterinarian will determine the treatment. Usually none are resorted to but the symptoms are expected to eventually disappear.
In more serious cases mastitis is treated and if the animal’s behaviour becomes aggressive or extremely depressive it is treated with anxiolytics under expert supervision.
Experts recommend certain measures:
- Remove objects that the animal may have adopted so that the idea of procreation does not become entrenched.
- Reasonably reduce or restrict water intake. This would reduce milk production, always taking care of the necessary hydration of the animal.
- Avoid self-stimulation of the breasts. Do not allow the animal or others with licking stimulate the breasts, this will stop the mechanisms of secretion and production of milk through them.
- Increase the amount of physical exercise
- Accompaniment and distractions. Usually bitches reflect decay and hypersensitivity to suffer this type of pregnancy, so it is also advised to pamper the bitch and distract her with other activities.