In this Article
- What Is Cryptic Pregnancy?
- Causes of Cryptic Pregnancy
- Common Signs and Symptoms of Cryptic Pregnancy
- Why is This Pregnancy Cryptic?
- Is Fetal Developement Affected in Cryptic Pregnancy?
- Bleeding or Continued Periods During Cryptic Pregnancy
- Weight Loss or Gain
- Can Cryptic Pregnancy Go Undetected in an Ultrasound?
- Why Do Urine and Blood Tests Show Negative Results?
- How Long Can Cryptic Pregnancy Last?
- Is Labour and Delivery After a Cryptic Pregnancy Similar to a Normal Pregnancy?
- What Are the Symptoms of Labour in a Cryptic Pregnancy?
- How Can a Woman Not Suspect Pregnancy If She Misses Her Period?
- How to Prevent Cryptic Pregnancy?
Did you know that there are cases where a woman does not know she is pregnant until she goes into labour? While it may seem unbelievable, this condition is not as uncommon as you think. These women have very mild symptoms of pregnancy such as morning sickness, weight gain, or even missed periods.
What Is Cryptic Pregnancy?
A cryptic pregnancy or stealth pregnancy is termed such when the woman who is pregnant remains unaware of her pregnancy due to subtle pregnancy symptoms. Many of these women were told that they could not have children, or they would’ve themselves undergone sterilisation. In cryptic pregnancy cases, as the hCG levels are low, pregnancy goes undetected.
Causes of Cryptic Pregnancy
Below are some reasons why cryptic pregnancy may take place. Most of them are due to hormonal changes:
1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Small cysts on the ovaries can cause a hormonal imbalance in women. PCOS is on the rise due to changing lifestyles. This illness creates hormonal imbalances and irregular periods.
2. Recent Pregnancy
It’s possible for a woman to get pregnant after a pregnancy. In such a case, skipped periods might be mistaken for postpartum recovery. A woman may fail to realise that she’s pregnant again.
Perimenopause is a condition wherein the female body exhibits symptoms of menopause, such as weight gain and hormonal fluctuations. When women fail to distinguish a pregnancy due to perimenopause symptoms, it results in a cryptic pregnancy.
4. Low Body Fat
For athletes or wome with low body fat, hormone levels may fluctuate, resulting in missed periods. This also makes it harder to detect a pregnancy.
5. Birth Control Pills
Those who use birth control pills and IUDs are usually confident of pregnancy not being a possibility. However, these contraceptive methods don’t guarantee a 100% success rate and can result in pregnancy.
As our lifestyles become increasingly fragile, we take on more stress to stay shoulder to shoulder with the world. Stress is one of the major factors of fluctuating hormone levels, especially in women.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Cryptic Pregnancy
Below are symptoms of cryptic pregnancy which women might fail to notice:
- Period-like bleeding during the pregnancy that resembles a regular menstrual cycle
- Typical pregnancy symptoms like nausea and vomiting are very mild and easily mistaken for other conditions
- The foetus is present but nestles at the back of the uterus towards the spine
- Though there is fetal movement in the uterus, it is very similar to the feeling of gas and indigestion.
Why is This Pregnancy Cryptic?
There are many reasons why your pregnancy may be cryptic. Some of the reasons are:
- Urine and blood tests for pregnancy come back negative due to fluctuating hormone levels.
- Early labour contractions feel like period cramping.
- There is no sign of pregnancy on the ultrasound due to difficulty in detecting the foetus.
Is Fetal Developement Affected in Cryptic Pregnancy?
Since most cryptic pregnancies last longer than regular pregnancies, it’s commonly believed that the development of the foetus is affected in such cases. However, this is untrue. The development of the foetus takes place to the same extent, but at a slower pace.
Bleeding or Continued Periods During Cryptic Pregnancy
In cryptic pregnancy, a woman continues to bleed just as she does during a regular menstrual cycle. However, the duration of the bleeding is short. The bleeding occurs at regular intervals or is random. The flow also ranges from spotting to heavy flow and can be pink, red, black, brown or even purple. This occurs because the uterus is removing the inner lining and is not indicative of a miscarriage.
Weight Loss or Gain
Weight loss or gain in cryptic pregnancy is gradual. In case of weight gain, it does not follow a pattern similar to regular pregnancy and is very slow. Weight loss might occur due to food aversion that happens in the early pregnancy days. Since the mother does not know that she is pregnant, she does not ensure that she gets adequate nutrition both for herself and her baby.
Can Cryptic Pregnancy Go Undetected in an Ultrasound?
Many times, cryptic pregnancy goes undetected even in an ultrasound. One reason is that a woman who does not know she is pregnant will not get ultrasound tests as often as a pregnant woman will. Other reasons why an ultrasound will not detect a cryptic pregnancy are:
1. Retroversion of the Uterus
Retroversion of the uterus is a condition wherein the uterus tilts either sidewards or backwards. If the uterus is in this position, it’s hard for an ultrasound to detect a foetus.
2. Bicornuate Uterus
Bicornuate uterus is a congenital condition wherein the uterus grows in a heart shape with two horn-like tissues that are divided partially or fully by a wall of tissue. This makes it harder for the woman to conceive as well as increases the chances of cryptic pregnancy.
3. Scar Tissue
Scar tissue does not allow the ultrasound to get a clear picture as it blocks the waves of the test. Abnormal scarring may happen due to any stomach surgery or incomplete abortion in the past.
Why Do Urine and Blood Tests Show Negative Results?
In normal pregnancy, the result is determined on the amount of hCG in the body. hCG is a hormone produced by the placenta and builds up in the urine and blood. However, in case of cryptic pregnancy, the uterine lining is regularly removed from the body, thus not allowing hCG levels to build up. Hence, the urine and blood tests are negative in cryptic pregnancy.
How Long Can Cryptic Pregnancy Last?
The gestation period for cryptic pregnancy is much longer than that of regular pregnancy. As the hCG hormone is not absorbed by the body, it does not get the signal to focus on developing the foetus. Regular periods also prolong the gestation period. The heavier the flow, the longer the gestation period. Cryptic pregnancies may last from 40 weeks to two years.
Is Labour and Delivery After a Cryptic Pregnancy Similar to a Normal Pregnancy?
Once the baby is fully developed and ready to enter into the world, a woman undergoing a cryptic pregnancy feels severe cramps and her cervix dilates in order to push the baby out through the birth canal. Although labour in a cryptic pregnancy is similar to that of a normal pregnancy, it can cause psychological distress in addition to the physical as the woman may not be expecting it.
What Are the Symptoms of Labour in a Cryptic Pregnancy?
Some labour symptoms associated with cryptic pregnancy are:
- Body ache
- Mood swings
- Pain in the hips and pelvic region
- Swelling of the vaginal walls due to increase in blood flow
- Sharp, shooting pain in the breasts
- Pressure on the cervix
How Can a Woman Not Suspect Pregnancy If She Misses Her Period?
There are many reasons why women miss their periods and don’t suspect pregnancy. These range from stress to PCOS to menopause. Also, the spotting or light flow in cryptic pregnancy can be mistaken for menstrual periods.
Some complications of cryptic pregnancy include:
- No access to prenatal care as the mother is unaware of the pregnancy. Complications like hypertension and diabetes remain untreated and cause harm to both the mother and the baby.
- When the mother does not avoid harmful substances like cigarettes or alcohol, it can cause harm to the foetus.
How to Prevent Cryptic Pregnancy?
If you are married and sexually active, then you must be aware that you could have cryptic pregnancy. If you experience pain or changes in your abdomen or pelvic region, then consult a doctor regarding the same. If you do not get your periods regularly, then inform your gynaecologist about this condition and get a thorough check-up.
Cryptic pregnancies are hard to detect and affect a woman’s life as she is unprepared. Being aware and keeping your gynaecologist in the loop about your reproductive health is the key to prevent cryptic pregnancy.