What is Cryptic Pregnancy?

Cryptic Pregnancy

A cryptic pregnancy, also called denial of pregnancy, is one that goes undetected until delivery. This means that you are pregnant, but the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels are too low to be detected even in a blood or urine test. One in 450 pregnant women don’t even know they are pregnant until they reach 20 weeks of pregnancy, and one in 2,500 don’t know they are pregnant until they reach labor.

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Cryptic pregnancies usually occur in women who have been on birth control methods such as contraceptive pills or tubal ligation. These women come under the ‘least expected pregnancy category’ and experience common pregnancy symptoms such as fatigue and morning sickness mildly, or do not experience any symptom at all.

Causes of Cryptic Pregnancy

  1. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS):This occurs when small cysts form on the enlarged ovaries. They can cause hormonal imbalances in the body.
  2. Recent pregnancy:Hormones may take time to get back to normal after your pregnancy. If you are pregnant immediately, there would be hormonal imbalance causing a cryptic pregnancy.
  3. Low body fat: This can trigger a hormonal imbalance as in the case of athletes.
  4. Perimenopause: During this time, the body begins to show signs of progression to menopause. It can begin as early as in the 30s, making the pregnancy go unidentified.
  5. Birth control pillssuch as Deprovera, Norplant, or Mirena Coil release more hormones which affect the normal pregnancy hormones making them vulnerable to pregnancy.
  6. High-stress levelscan cause a cryptic pregnancy as they influence the hormones.

Symptoms of Cryptic Pregnancy

The symptoms of cryptic pregnancy are similar to a regular pregnancy but the symptoms vary from one woman to the other.

What Makes Cryptic Pregnancy Different?

Cryptic pregnancy remains a secret because of these reasons:

  • Urine and blood tests come out negative
  • You may have regular periods throughout the pregnancy, though the number of bleeding days may reduce.
  • You might have continuing early labor signs such as contractions and period like pain.
  • Slow pregnancy belly growth as baby is at the back of the womb (at the spine).

The Fetus in Cryptic Pregnancy

The development of the fetus is frequently delayed in cryptic pregnancy taking place at an extremely slow pace. However, this does not necessarily affect the health of the fetus. The mother would go to hospital only when she has severe stomach and back cramps, that is, during labor.

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Menstrual Periods In Cryptic Pregnancy

Most women continue seeing their regular periods throughout the cryptic pregnancy, but this does not indicate a miscarriage. Bleeding can be heavy, light, or spot bleeding with a few large or small clots. The bleeding can be bright red, pink, brown, purple, orange, or black. It can be like a normal period, irregular or random. The bleeding could sometimes last for weeks or months, but all it does is shed away the uterine lining, this results in little or no hCG.

Negative Test Result in Cryptic pregnancy

In a normal pregnancy, the pregnancy test shows negative if it is taken too early or if you fail to follow the instructions correctly. However, same isn’t applicable in a cryptic pregnancy. The result is negative because the level of hCG is small. The placenta usually secretes hCG, which passes along the lining of the womb. It accumulates and is shown in the urine and blood. In cryptic pregnancy, the lining of the uterus sheds periodically without giving hCG the room to build up and show up in tests.

READ ALSO: Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance in Women

Why Ultrasound Can’t Detect Cryptic Pregnancy

In a normal pregnancy, the doctor carries out a trans-vaginal ultrasound 12 weeks into the pregnancy. Also, an abdominal ultrasound will be carried out until the due week. However, in most cryptic pregnancy cases, ultrasound scans cannot detect the growing fetus in a majority of women. This may be due to some abnormalities in the abdominal region or uterus.

Why Cryptic Pregnancy Have Longer Gestational Period

This pregnancy takes longer gestational period because the hCG will not pass into the maternal system as in a normal pregnancy. This prevents the body from generating signals essential for the growing baby development, thus making the fetus grow slowly. The babies measure smaller than they should be at various phases of pregnancy. Furthermore, regular periods during cryptic pregnancy causes the gestational period to be elongated. The heavier the period bleeding, the longer is the gestation.

Possible Complications of Cryptic Pregnancy

Since the woman isn’t aware of her pregnancy, she would not go for prenatal care. The delivery may be at home and unaided.

  • Prenatal complications such as hypertension, diabetes, or blood group mismatch will go undetected putting both the mother and baby at risk.
  • The mother may not avoid certain harmful habits such as smoking or drinking, which may affect the baby.

Cryptic Pregnancy Labor

Just like cryptic pregnancy, its labor is also strange. It is long and protracted, and you will experience labor like pains for months before you enter into actual labor. The labor pains, which may initially seem like menstrual cramps, will get worse and hurt a lot more. This, coupled with the pains lasting for months, may prompt women to see a doctor, where the pregnancy may be confirmed. The doctor may try to induce labor or perform a C-section to deliver the baby.

Some of the labor symptoms in cryptic pregnancy are:

  • Back pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chills and Hot flashes
  • Dizziness
  • Cold sweats
  • Diarrhea
  • Body ache
  • Pain in the legs that radiates to the thighs
  • Mood swings
  • Pain in the hip and pelvic region
  • Palpitations
  • Swelling of the vaginal walls due to increased blood flow
  • Vagina feeling bruised and painful
  • Painful breasts. Sometimes, the pain can be shooting, sharp pain
  • Vision problems
  • Pressure on the cervix
  • Stabbing pain in the sides, just like you get after running
  • Tugging or pulling sensation in the abdomen which may or may not be painful

The actual process of cryptic pregnancy birth in some cases is very quick and does not last long.

How to Prevent Cryptic Pregnancy

Women who are always experiencing certain pain or changes in the abdomen or pelvis, should quickly contact a doctor. Though it is difficult to detect a pregnancy, your doctor might make a guess about it. Take repeated pregnancy test if you do not get regular periods. You should speak to your gynecologist about irregular periods and get a thorough checkup.


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