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What Is Hysterical Pregnancy?

Lainie Petersen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Hysterical pregnancy, sometimes known as a false pregnancy or pseudocyesis, is a condition in which a person, usually a woman, believes that she or he is pregnant and experiences or demonstrates symptoms that are consistent with pregnancy. These symptoms might include the cessation of menstruation in a woman, abdominal swelling and nausea. Although these physical symptoms are real, many experts believe that hysterical pregnancy typically is psychosomatic, although some medical conditions might also mimic symptoms of pregnancy. A hysterical pregnancy is not the same as a faked pregnancy, in which a woman deliberately lies about pregnancy to gain sympathy or to manipulate others, because people who experience pseudocyesis genuinely believe that they are pregnant, in part because they experience symptoms that are consistent with pregnancy.

The phenomenon of hysterical pregnancy can be caused by several things, but in many cases, it might be the result of a woman's deep desire to have a child. Many of the symptoms of early pregnancy might also have other causes, but if a woman wants to have a child, she might assume that she is pregnant. If she does not see a doctor right away or undergo a pregnancy test, she might continue living under the assumption that she is pregnant and might even begin to demonstrate symptoms that are consistent with a more advanced pregnancy. For example, she might begin to gain weight in the abdominal region. Some doctors have reported that a woman who experiences a hysterical pregnancy might have an enlarged uterus or a softened cervix, both of which are typical symptoms of pregnancy.

In rare cases, men who are married to or partnered with pregnant women will begin to experience a form of hysterical pregnancy known as sympathetic pregnancy. Although these men are fully aware that they are not pregnant, they might experience abdominal swelling, nausea and tiredness alongside their wives or partners. After the child is born, these symptoms go away.

Doctors generally urge women who are experiencing pregnancy symptoms to undergo a pregnancy test and see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. If a woman is pregnant, she and her healthcare practitioner can work together to ensure that she has a healthy pregnancy and delivery. If she is not pregnant, she might be able to spare herself some stress for this appointment by confirming that she is not pregnant right away. A healthcare practitioner might also be able to determine the cause of her pregnancy symptoms and offer appropriate treatment, if necessary.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.
Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Jan 09, 2012

@turquoise-- I don't know if there is an age group that most often experiences hysterical pregnancy, but I know that there is for pseudocyesis. Pseudocyesis is basically the same thing as hysterical pregnancy except that the woman continues to believe that she's pregnant despite medical testing that proves she is not.

It's not a very common condition, but it's mainly seen among women in their late 30s and early 40s. Basically as women get closer to menopause and especially if they've never had children despite trying.

Just like hysterical pregnancy, these women also show false symptoms of pregnancy like nausea, weight gain and so forth.

By turquoise — On Jan 08, 2012

This happens with animals too! I had a dog who appeared to have hysterical pregnancy several times. She would suddenly start being very inactive, sleeping all day despite being a very active dog and she would eat huge amounts of food. This would last around a week and then she would go back to normal again.

I don't know what exactly she was feeling but she seemed to just go into this psychology and then realize that she's not pregnant later. It was quite fascinating but also made me a little sad.

I wonder if hysterical pregnancy is a sign that the person or animal is physically and psychologically prepared to have a baby? Like the maternal clock perhaps? It would be interesting to see a study on which age groups experience hysterical pregnancy the most and if there is some kind of a pattern there.

By ysmina — On Jan 07, 2012

There was actually a comedy show on TV the other day where the girl had hysterical pregnancy. Her period was late so she assumed that she was pregnant even before a pregnancy test. She couldn't get an appointment with her doctor until next week because the doctor was out of town.

So for that entire week, she experienced many false pregnancy symptoms. She had nausea and was throwing up often, she became really sensitive to different food odors that triggered her nausea. She felt bloated and had constipation and fatigue. She was also craving different kinds of foods and was easily irritated.

At the end of the week, right before she left for her doctor's appointment, she got her period which confirmed that she was actually not pregnant! It was a really interesting situation to watch and I could not believe how she could have so many physical symptoms simply because she believed that she was pregnant. I guess hysterical pregnancy shows just how powerful the mind is because the body seems to follow suit with our thoughts.

Has anyone experienced hysterical pregnancy? Can you tell me a little bit about what it was like?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
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