Women Who Don't Know They're Pregnant: Psst, It's You!


Before TLC, we’d always kind of assumed the whole “Whoops! You’re actually 9 months pregnant!” thing was an urban legend. But no! In fact: it could happen to you.

Okay, maybe not you specifically, but a surprisingly high one in six hundred women has no idea she’s pregnant. Maybe not into the 9th month, but much longer than one would think possible. And no, they’re not all mentally ill or so heavy that they don’t notice the weight gain, but come from all walks of life. A surprising number, according to new studies, are women who’ve had children before.

A lot of it, apparently, can come down to denial — and denial that your body is right on board with. Think the opposite of a “hysterical pregnancy”; a lot of these women quite literally aren’t feeling all those symptoms that we imagine would be so hard to ignore. Says one midwife quoted by the London Times, “An unplanned pregnancy can cause extreme anxiety and anxiety produces a closed mind which refuses to recognise symptoms.” And, says one German study, “The absence of many physical symptoms of pregnancy, inexperience, general inattentiveness to bodily cues, intense psychological conflicts about the pregnancy, and external stresses can contribute to the denial in otherwise well-adjusted women.”

Beyond the emotional fallout, the financial panic and the complications such a pregnancy must foster in terms of bonding, there’s the fact that in such cases neither mother nor child has received prenatal care. Basically, it’s having a cataclysmic life-change presented with no forewarning. And TLC reenacts it!

The author of the Times piece remarks that, for anyone who’s been pregnant, it seems pretty unthinkable that you could ignore your body’s seismic maternal changes. And to that I’d add, it’s equally mind-boggling for those of us who’ve put a lot of work into not getting pregnant. For those of us who neurotically imagine we’re pregnant every other month and have set our clocks, both literal and physical, by the unyielding demands of birth control, this willful obliviousness is unthinkable and almost awe-inspiring. Of course, that’s something to think about it its own right: The regular availability and use of birth control serves, for many, to make us more aware of our bodies and our fertility than we otherwise would be. And really, one wonders if some of the women featured in this story were actually on birth control at the time — and given the fact that more and more birth-control options can suppress periods, there might be even more to the story here. Whether that’s an irony or not, I couldn’t say, but it’s a barrier to understanding how to mentally suppress morning-sickness.

Women Who Don’t Realize They’re Pregnant

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