When clinical and/or subclinical signs and symptoms associated with pregnancy are observed in women who are not pregnant, this is called as Pseudocyesis or false pregnancy.
The term pseudopregnancy is usually used in reference to mammals other than humans. One of the most famous cases in documented history of false pregnancy was Queen of England, Mary I, who underwent several episodes of believing that she was pregnant when she actually was not.
It is believed by some that it is this disappointment of hers when she learnt that she was in fact not pregnant, that led her to violence and consequently the name of Bloody Mary.
The symptoms of false pregnancy are much the same as a real pregnancy, nausea, morning sickness, weight gain, tenderness of the breasts, stoppage of the menstrual cycle, etc, which is why it is difficult to detect and health professionals even may often not be able to distinguish a false pregnancy from a real one.
Sometimes Pseudocyesis can be entirely psychological and the woman undergoing can have any or all of the following symptoms:
- A woman is usually convinced that she is pregnant when she is in fact not
- Abdominal distension is another symptom of false pregnancy, when a woman’s belly increases in size in much the same way as it would during a regular pregnancy. So not only does the woman believe she is pregnant, she actually looks it as well because uterine enlargement is actually a symptom of false pregnancy.
- Not getting her monthly period or getting it irregularly is another symptom of false pregnancy.
- Many women experience quickening or fetal movement even though there is no fetus to produce such sensations.
- Labor pains are not uncommon and a very tiny percentage of women actually go into labor as well in a false pregnancy.
- The cervix may also soften in a false pregnancy.
False pregnancy has to be distinguished from stimulated pregnancy, wherein there is intention pretence at being pregnant, knowing this to be untrue.
False pregnancies are very rare and may happen due to a strong desire to be pregnant and a sort of wish fulfillment that results in this condition. If a woman wants to fall pregnant, she may interpret certain changes taking place inside her body as being pregnancy related.