What is false pregnancy


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You have a swollen belly, morning sickness, tender breasts, no period and are completely exhausted. All signs and symptoms point to a possible pregnancy, except one thing is missing: a baby. How is this possible?

Pseudocyesis, more commonly known as phantom pregnancy or false pregnancy, is a very real but rare condition where a person experiences many of the physical and emotional symptoms of pregnancy, despite not being pregnant.

what is false pregnancy

What is Pseudocyesis?

It’s a phenomenon that has baffled medical professionals for centuries and is heart-wrenching for those desiring a real pregnancy. It is even believed that Mary Tudor, Queen of England, experienced “phantom pregnancies” during her reign.

Pseudocyesis, also known as false pregnancy or phantom pregnancy, is a condition in which an individual experiences many of the physical and psychological symptoms of pregnancy, despite not being pregnant. The term “pseudocyesis” is derived from the Greek words “pseudo,” meaning false, and “kyesis,” meaning pregnancy.

People with pseudocyesis genuinely believe they are pregnant and may exhibit various signs and symptoms associated with pregnancy, including missed periods, abdominal distention, breast enlargement, weight gain, nausea, vomiting, and even fetal movements. Additionally, they may experience emotional changes such as mood swings, nesting instincts, and a strong desire to have a baby.

The exact cause of pseudocyesis is not fully understood, but it is believed to be influenced by a combination of psychological and physiological factors. Psychological factors may include a strong desire for pregnancy, anxiety, depression, or a history of infertility. Physiological factors may involve hormonal imbalances that mimic pregnancy symptoms.

What are the signs of pseudocyesis?

Pseudocyesis, or false pregnancy, can manifest with a range of signs and symptoms that mimic those of a real pregnancy. Here are some common signs associated with pseudocyesis:

  1. Amenorrhea: Absence of menstrual periods, which is a typical sign of pregnancy.
  2. Abdominal changes: The abdomen may appear distended or enlarged, resembling a pregnant belly. This can be due to bloating or changes in the abdominal muscles.
  3. Breast changes: The breasts may undergo enlargement, become tender, or show changes similar to those seen during pregnancy. The nipples might darken and become more prominent.
  4. Nausea and vomiting: Some individuals with pseudocyesis may experience morning sickness, including feelings of nausea and occasional vomiting.
  5. Weight gain: False pregnancy can be accompanied by weight gain, primarily in the abdominal area, but it can extend to other parts of the body as well.
  6. Fetal movements: Some individuals report sensations that feel like fetal movements, also known as quickening. They may describe fluttering or rhythmic sensations in the abdominal area.
  7. Psychological changes: Pseudocyesis can cause various emotional and psychological changes. These can include mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, and an intense desire to have a baby.

What causes pseudocyesis?

  1. sychological factors: Strong emotional desire for pregnancy can play a significant role in pseudocyesis. People who experience intense longing for a baby, have difficulties conceiving, or have experienced pregnancy loss or infertility in the past may be more prone to developing false pregnancy. Psychological factors such as anxiety, depression, and the subconscious need to fulfill societal or personal expectations of pregnancy and motherhood can also contribute.
  2. Hormonal imbalances: Hormonal changes in the body can mimic pregnancy symptoms and contribute to pseudocyesis. It is believed that the psychological factors associated with false pregnancy can trigger hormonal imbalances, which then lead to the physical symptoms. These imbalances can affect hormone levels such as prolactin, which is involved in milk production, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is typically elevated during pregnancy.
  3. Physical changes: False pregnancy may involve physical changes in the body that resemble pregnancy. For example, bloating and changes in the abdominal muscles can contribute to the appearance of an enlarged belly. Hormonal fluctuations can also lead to breast changes, including swelling, tenderness, and darkening of the nipples.
  4. Hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis: The hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which controls the hormonal regulation of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, may be disrupted in pseudocyesis. Dysregulation of this axis can lead to irregularities in menstrual cycles and false pregnancy symptoms.

How is pseudocyesis diagnosed?

The only way to know for sure if someone is experiencing a false pregnancy versus a real pregnancy is through a pregnancy test or ultrasound.

If both tests come back negative, but concerning symptoms linger, further testing and psychological evaluations may be conducted to determine if it is related to pseudocyesis or another mental health or medical issue.


It’s rare to experience pseudocyesis or false pregnancy. Symptoms may resemble a real pregnancy, except there is no baby.

Talk to your health care provider or a licensed behavioral health specialist if you think you might struggle with pseudocyesis or undue fertility-related stress. They can confirm a pregnancy and help you with treatment options.


Aman k. Kashyap

I am a hard-working and driven medical student who isn't afraid to face any challenge. I'm passionate about my work . I would describe myself as an open and honest person who doesn't believe in misleading other people and tries to be fair in everything I do.

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