What is nervous pregnancy and what causes it?

Qu'est-ce que la grossesse nerveuse et à quoi est-elle due ?

What is a pseudopregnancy?

Nervous pregnancy, also known as false pregnancy, pseudocyesis, virtual pregnancy or phantom pregnancy, is a psychological disorder that can have several causes. In contrast to pregnancy denial, a woman suffering from pseudopregnancy is convinced that she is pregnant and presents various symptoms of pregnancy, even though she is not. It's an imaginary pregnancy, since no embryo is present.

This phenomenon can affect all women of childbearing age. Young women who are afraid of becoming pregnant, but also older women who want to have a child. With the advent of contraception and the availability of early pregnancy tests, teenage pregnancies have almost disappeared in France, affecting 1 to 6 out of every 22,000 women.

What causes pseudopregnancies?

Nervous pregnancies have a wide variety of causes.

In less serious cases, women with delayed menstruation begin to somatize a pregnancy. Nevertheless, these women often realize the reality of the situation more or less quickly, when their period arrives.

In other cases, it can occur in women who have suffered a miscarriage, abortion or ectopic pregnancy. In conclusion, all women who have experienced pregnancies that were not carried to term are at greater risk of experiencing a nervous pregnancy. But hormonal imbalance, personal problems, severe depression or an ovarian tumour can also be the cause of a nervous pregnancy.

Nervous pregnancies are also very common in the following cases:

  • In young women with a phobic fear of becoming pregnant,
  • In women with a strong desire to have children,
  • In women approaching menopause who want to give birth one last time, mourning the loss of motherhood.

However, fear and desire can be intertwined, because despite a desire for children, a woman may dread the various stages of pregnancy. Nervous pregnancy therefore seems to be an unconscious way for her to confront her fears.

In all cases, nervous pregnancies are due to somatization of the body by the brain. In fact, the brain, and more specifically the hypothalamus (the gland that controls ovulation), controls hormones and the smooth running of the menstrual cycle. If intense stress is experienced, the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle may no longer be secreted, resulting in an absence of periods. But this phenomenon also affects the whole body, causing other symptoms that can be associated with pregnancy.

Women who often experience excessive fears are therefore more vulnerable than others to this phenomenon.

What are the symptoms of a nervous pregnancy?

The symptoms of a nervous pregnancy are similar to those of pregnancy:

  • Absence of menstrual periods
  • Sore breasts
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • Swollen belly (in the most severe cases, as in the 8th month)
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach ache
  • Backache
  • Swollen legs
  • Sensations of movement of the "fetus" or even contractions and the onset of labor.

Everything points to pregnancy, yet there's no trace of a fetus.

If these symptoms occur, we advise you to consult a health professional.

How is a nervous pregnancy diagnosed?

Nervous pregnancy is diagnosed by proving that the woman is not pregnant. This is usually done by means of a simple pregnancy test. However, the pregnancy test can sometimes show a positive result when it is actually negative, as hormones from the hypothalamus can distort the results. An ultrasound scan can also be carried out to determine whether or not the pregnancy is real.

What treatment is available for a nervous pregnancy?

Nervous pregnancies often occur in women suffering from psychological distress. Psychological follow-up is therefore essential.

A multidisciplinary approach can also be envisaged, with the woman surrounded by doctors, gynecologists and psychiatrists, to help her gradually realize and prove that she is in fact not pregnant.

However, doctors are often confronted with the fact that the patient is convinced that she is pregnant, despite examinations proving the contrary. The patient must therefore be taught to focus on her body and sensations, and to overcome her fears.

In addition to traditional medicine, alternative therapies such as homeopathic treatment, biological decoding of illnesses, hypnosis and behavioral and cognitive therapies can also be considered.

Finally, the support of loved ones is essential in the case of a nervous pregnancy.

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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.