What is False Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2019
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A false pregnancy is a phenomenon in which a female experiences many of the symptoms of being pregnant but is not, in fact, with child. This phenomenon, which is also referred to as hysterical pregnancy, is not especially common in humans, but does occur in other mammals. When a human woman experiences a false pregnancy, the phenomenon is referred to as pseudocyesis. When other species experience false pregnancies it is referred to as pseudopregnancy. When a woman experiences a false pregnancy, she usually strongly believes that she is pregnant and she also has a number of physiological symptoms to back up the belief.

One of the hallmarks of pregnancy, the development of the "baby bump" in the abdominal region, is often present in women who experience false pregnancies. The abdominal distention is one of the reasons that she and, in some cases, the people around her believe that she is with child. An examination by a doctor, especially with the use of ultrasound technology, can determine that there is no fetus in the woman's uterus. Some women also experience morning sickness, soreness in their breasts, as well as an absence of menstruation, all of which are also symptoms of pregnancy. Some women who have experienced false pregnancies have also reported the sensation of fetal movements.


It is widely believed that, in humans, a false pregnancy is psychologically driven. There are some theories that a false pregnancy may be the result of a deep desire to have a child. There is not currently, however, a theory that is accepted by all and there are also some cases that poke holes in certain existing theories. There are some women, for example, who experience false pregnancies but assert that they have no desire to have a child.

Just as there is no definitive cause of false pregnancy, there is also no definitive cure. In many cases, a women who is experiencing a false pregnancy will be referred to a mental health professional. The treatments provided by mental health professionals can vary quite a bit and there is not a mental health treatment that is widely used and known to cure false pregnancy. There are a few statistics that point to specific age groups that are at a higher risk for false pregnancy. But there are also reports that indicate that there are outliers, proving that there is not one age group that solely experiences this phenomenon.


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Post 3

I belong to an ovarian cancer support group, but I have stage 4 primary peritoneal cancer, which is very similar and treated basically the same. This cancer isn't usually diagnosed until stage 3 or 4, since there aren't always obvious warning symptoms.

The first symptom I had, and many in my support group had, was abdominal bloating. It looked like I was eight months pregnant. The nurse who heads the cancer support group told me that back in the day, with the swelling from all the fluid caused by the cancer, that many women were diagnosed with false pregnancy.

Post 2

The topic of this article made me think of pandas! They are notorious for their false pregnancies. Even vets have trouble telling the difference for quite a while. They'll exhibit false pregnancy signs. Their hormone levels rise, they will make a nest, they'll get all maternal and start cradling objects as if they were a cub.

But none of those are definitive! And the pseudopregnancies last as long as the real thing. Seems awfully inefficient to me - it's seems miraculous that pandas ever survived in the wild at all.

Post 1

There are also a few things that can cause a false pregnancy test positive. The main one is taking HCG for fertility problems - HCG is what the tests measure!

Another big cause of false positives is reading the test too late. Apparently, a positive result can turn up after a long enough time has passed even though the woman is not pregnant. That's why they say not to read the test after a certain time period (usually ten minutes, I think).

And then there's chemical pregnancy, which I've experienced. You ge a positive result, but then you get your period. You did conceive, it's just that nothing came of it besides a brief hormone surge.

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