What is pregnancy denial?

Qu'est-ce que le déni de grossesse  ?

What is pregnancy denial?

Pregnancy denial is a form of pregnancy denial. It refers to the fact of being pregnant for at least three months without knowing it, without being aware of it. In fact, the usual signs of pregnancy are very weak, or even absent, and can go unnoticed. For both the woman and those around her. Specialists call this phenomenon the "contagion" of pregnancy denial.

Pregnancy denial can affect women of all ages, social backgrounds and marital profiles. It can even affect women who thought they were infertile or menopausal, or women who have already had one or more children, and who are therefore familiar with the clinical signs of pregnancy.

However, pregnancy denial often has nothing to do with whether or not you want to have a child.

Different forms of pregnancy denial?

According to specialists, there are two types of pregnancy denial,

  • Partial pregnancy denial: the woman discovers her pregnancy after the first trimester, but before term. In some cases, the woman's body changes very quickly, going from a flat stomach to a bulging belly as soon as she discovers she's pregnant.

  • Total denial of pregnancy: the woman discovers her pregnancy during childbirth, after a visit to the emergency room for severe abdominal pain, for example, or during an unexpected delivery at home.

Pregnancy denial should not be confused with hidden pregnancy. In this case, the mother is aware of her pregnancy and chooses to conceal it from those around her.

Misleading clinical signs:

In the case of pregnancy denial, there are a number of clinical signs that contribute to misleading the pregnant woman, those around her, and sometimes health professionals too:

  • Absence of amenorrhea, i.e. no cessation of menstruation,

  • The use of contraception,

  • Absence or slight increase in abdominal circumference,

  • little or no weight gain, or even weight loss,

  • non-perception or non-identification of fetal movements,

  • Attenuation of usual pregnancy symptoms such as breast tension, shortness of breath, frequent urination, backache, etc.

Moreover, if some of these signs are sometimes perceived by the pregnant woman, they are attributed to constipation/indigestion/gastro for weight gain or sales pains. A delay in menstruation, on the other hand, can be considered normal, as menstruation is usually irregular (in which case you can wear our menstrual panties outside your period, in anticipation). In fact, these women are unaware of their condition, so they have no way of knowing that they are pregnant. Their bodies show no symptoms, acting as a defense mechanism.

Instead of moving forward, the uterus moves lengthwise, vertically, pushing against the diaphragm, intestines and lungs. The fetus then lies partly under the mother's ribs. It is in fact the abdominal muscles, unconsciously controlled by the brain, which force the uterus to position itself in this way, by tensing. The organs are thus compressed without the woman feeling the slightest discomfort, and without there being any physical signs that might indicate pregnancy.

Possible causes of pregnancy denial :

Pregnancy denial is a psychic gestational disorder. Pregnancy is both a process of physical and physiological change (allowing the baby to develop), and a psychological one. During the 9 months of pregnancy, a woman "becomes a mother", she prepares for it.

However, during pregnancy denial, the psyche unconsciously denies the pregnancy, and this has repercussions, as we saw earlier, in the form of physical changes that are either imperceptible or barely perceptible. This is often due to each woman's own history, for example:

  • Ambivalence about wanting a child

  • Unresolved internal conflicts

  • Difficult relationship with the body

  • Difficult relationship with sexuality, or lack of sex education in youth (taboo, etc.)

  • Difficulty communicating emotions

  • Difficult family context (relationship with own parents, recent bereavements, etc.)

  • Past or present trauma (sexual or psychological abuse)

  • Adjustment disorder

  • Suspected sterility

  • Close pregnancies

  • Context not conducive to pregnancy (work, family, etc.)

Pregnancy denial therefore seems to be a defense mechanism, stemming from the unconscious, to cope with internal suffering that prevents them from dealing with the reality of pregnancy.

Pregnancy denial and psychological repercussions:

Pregnancy denial is often lifted when a third party (doctor or others) verbally states that the pregnancy is real. If this is not the case, the denial often continues until the birth. However, if the denial is lifted, a physical and psychological change is suddenly unblocked.

Nevertheless, the discovery of a pregnancy is a real shock for a woman, and the news can be very difficult to take. She may feel that she has lost control of her body, that it has betrayed her. But there is also a feeling of guilt and shame, as they feel they have abandoned the baby and have not been actively involved in their pregnancy, sometimes with abuse (alcohol, tobacco, etc.). There is also sometimes a feeling of inability to be a good mother and have a natural maternal instinct, as they were not "capable" of knowing they were pregnant.

After a pregnancy denial, it is therefore important for the mother to be accompanied right up to term and sometimes beyond, so that she can understand this trauma and create a mother-child relationship.

When pregnancy is denied, there is no psychic pregnancy, only a physical one (albeit a very hidden one). Yet our society still places a taboo around this subject, putting forward the myth of the "good mother" who has to be like this or like that. Nevertheless, every pregnancy is a form of "adoption", and some women even find it hard to accept their child after giving birth. Pregnancy denial is just one extreme form of this phenomenon.

In fact, a significant number of abortions and births under X have been found to be the result of denial. It is therefore important to help women make the best choice for themselves, with full knowledge of the facts and reassurance.

Pregnancy denial in figures:

Pregnancy denial accounts for around 1 in 500 births each year, which means that between 600 and 1,800 women are affected every year in France. 38% of these denials (around 330) are total, and 0.6% of women in denial give birth at home (around 85).

What's more, the medical community can sometimes make a woman who has made a denial of pregnancy feel even more guilty, arguing that it is impossible for her to have missed signs heralding a pregnancy. Midwives also feel that they have not been sufficiently informed/trained on the subject. It would therefore be important to have appropriate training for medical staff, and better information for the general public, to best support women who discover a denial of pregnancy, with the aim of minimizing the consequences for mother and child.

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The information contained in the articles on www-elia-lingerie.com is general information only. Although reviewed by health professionals, this information is not error-free, does not constitute health advice or consultation, and is not intended to provide a diagnosis or suggest a course of treatment. Under no circumstances may this information be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor.