What is nervous pregnancy?

Qu'est-ce que la grossesse nerveuse ?

What is a crisis pregnancy?

Nervous pregnancy, also known as false pregnancy, pseudocyesis, virtual pregnancy, or phantom pregnancy is a psychological disorder that can have several causes. Unlike pregnancy denial, a woman with a pseudopregnancy is convinced that she is pregnant and presents various symptoms of pregnancy, when in fact she is not pregnant. It is an imaginary pregnancy since there is no embryo present.

This phenomenon can affect all women of childbearing age. Young women who are afraid of getting 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 as they affect 1 to 6 women out of 22,000.

What are the causes of pseudopregnancies?

There are many different causes of a pseudopregnancy.

In the least serious cases, women who have a delay in menstruation begin to somatize a pregnancy. Nevertheless, these women will often realize more or less quickly the reality with the arrival of the period.

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

Nervous pregnancies also occur very often in the following cases:

  • In young women who have a phobic fear of becoming pregnant,

  • In women who have a strong desire to have children,

  • In women who are approaching menopause and want to give birth one last time, mourning the loss of motherhood.

Nevertheless, fear and desire can be intertwined because despite a desire to have a child, a woman can dread the different stages of a pregnancy. Nervous pregnancy seems to be an unconscious way for her to confront her fears.

In all cases, nervous pregnancies are due to a somatization of the body because of the brain. Indeed, the brain, and more particularly the hypothalamus (the gland that controls ovulation), controls the hormones and the proper functioning of the menstrual cycle. If intense stress is experienced, the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle may no longer be secreted and cause an absence of periods. But this phenomenon also acts on the whole body, causing other symptoms that can be associated with pregnancy.

Women who often feel excessive fear are more vulnerable to this phenomenon than others.

What are the symptoms of a nervous pregnancy?

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

  • Absence of menstruation

  • Sore breasts

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Swollen belly (in the most severe cases, such as in the 8th month)

  • Weight gain

  • Fatigue

  • Stomach ache

  • Back pain

  • Swollen legs

  • Sensations of movement of the "fetus" or even contractions and the beginning of labor

Everything indicates a pregnancy, but there is no trace of a fetus.

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

How is a nervous pregnancy diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a nervous pregnancy consists of proving that the woman is not pregnant. This is usually done by a simple pregnancy test. However, the pregnancy test can sometimes show a positive when it is actually negative because hormones in the hypothalamus can distort the results. An ultrasound may also be performed to see if it is an actual pregnancy or not.

What is the treatment for a crisis pregnancy?

Nervous pregnancies often occur in women who suffer from psychological distress. A psychological follow-up must therefore be put in place.

A multidisciplinary approach can also be envisaged so that the woman is surrounded by doctors, gynecologists and psychiatrists in order to make her aware and to gradually prove to her that she is indeed not pregnant.

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

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

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

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