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"I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant:" Cryptic Pregnancy Explained

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It's a popular question about pregnancy nowadays, especially with stories of unsuspecting parents who gave birth without so much as a missed period cropping up by the dozen: how can someone not know they're pregnant? Although rare-- approximately 1 in 475 pregnancies are affected-- cryptic pregnancy is absolutely possible. But what is it, and how can it happen?

Firstly, that 1 in 475 figure applies to more than just people who give birth in restrooms having no idea about their bundle of joy. 'Cryptic pregnancy' actually refers to pregnancy that goes undetected until week 20 or beyond, at least halfway through a full term, 40 week gestation. But shouldn't there be a missed period, fatigue, cravings, morning sickness, or any of the awful symptoms that pregnancy is known to cause? What about the prominent baby bumps that are the subject of many a photoshoot?

In short, none of these symptoms are 'necessary' for a healthy pregnancy. Most will experience at least one (and probably several) of these symptoms, but a woman can be in active labor without the characteristic belly bulge. In fact, the size and shape of a pregnant belly varies widely, and is dependent upon the amount of amniotic fluid (the liquid in which the baby is suspended), the size and position of the baby, the expecting parent's weight, as well as the size, shape, and position of the uterus. Some bellies are almost completely flat, even at 40 weeks!

But what about a missed period? We're familiar with the 'monthly cycle,' but not everyone experiences it that way. Irregular bleeding between cycles can easily occur with a major diet or lifestyle change, and many who menstruate never do have regular cycles. As a result, they can explain away any implantation or pregnancy spotting by assuming it's a part of their irregular cycle. Light bleeding can even be normal in a healthy pregnancy. If the lack of bleeding is checked with a pregnancy test, bear in mind that there is a chance that it will produce a false negative. A lack of the pregnancy hormone HCG can cause this, or user error, or even just a defective test.

As you can see, it takes some pretty specific circumstances to produce a cryptic pregnancy. But it's certainly possible, and definitely not made up!

Photo: Pixabay