Psychological pregnancy: what it is, causes and symptoms

causes and symptoms

Lack of social support, chronic stress, fear of failure, or a feeling of loneliness can contribute to triggering it.
A psychological pregnancy in a woman can last from a few days to several months.
A psychological pregnancy or pseudocyesis is a disorder in which a person experiences physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms similar to those of a physical pregnancy , without actually becoming pregnant. Although there is no pregnancy, sometimes pregnancy tests can be positive for high levels of Chorionic Gonadotropin (HGC) hormone.

What is a psychological pregnancy?
Also known as psychosomatic pregnancy, it is characterized by the appearance of the physical and emotional symptoms of pregnancy without the presence of a fetus being detected.

There is no exact figure that determines how many women have a psychological pregnancy, since it is a difficult condition to measure. However, it is estimated that between 0.3% and 5% of women of reproductive age may experience it.

Despite the fact that there is much ignorance about this disorder, in recent years knowing what a psychological pregnancy is like has become a highly discussed topic among mental health professionals. Likewise, although it mainly affects women, sometimes men suffer from this pathology in a minority .

Psychological pregnancy: Causes
There are a variety of psychological and social factors that can trigger this syndrome. The exact causes are unknown, but it is believed to be linked to psychological disorders that affect both women and men. The main causes are:

I want to have a baby . Women who want to have a baby may experience social pressure and a series of feelings of guilt . This can increase anxiety and stress levels, which can lead to a psychological pregnancy.
Stress and anxiety . It can come from negative experiences such as a troubled marriage, poor self-esteem, a stressful work environment, or even precarious financial situations. A decrease in the emotional support received during pregnancy can have a significant impact on the development of the disorder.
Depression, loneliness and helplessness . This happens when a woman feels lonely, without support and without connections. In this sense, psychological pregnancy becomes a way of carrying out the desire to have a child.
Eating disorders . It is recommended to control these disorders before considering the possibility of an actual pregnancy.
Lifestyle . Chronic stress, excess alcohol or smoking, illegal drug use, lack of adequate sleep, excessive caffeine consumption, and lack of physical exercise can contribute to the onset or worsening of psychological pregnancy symptoms.
Self esteem problems . It can make a woman feel inferior or unable to have fulfilling relationships with others. This leads to developing the feeling that she is alone in the world and that she is not going to receive the love and support that she needs. These feelings can lead a woman to want to create a family of her own to meet those needs, which can lead to a psychological pregnancy.
Psychological pregnancy symptoms
Having a psychological pregnancy is a complicated subject; It can be a difficult experience to overcome, but not impossible. Psychological pregnancy symptoms are not dangerous . However, if left unattended, they can develop into a chronic mental disorder, leading the person to lead a disordered life.

The underlying belief is that the body is preparing for a real pregnancy, even when it isn’t. Symptoms are experienced as if pregnancy had occurred, including emotional ones, which can include mood swings, extreme sensitivity, and volatile moods.

In short, the symptoms are the same as those that a physical pregnancy would present , although there is no physical evidence of the presence of a fetus.

These include:

Cessation of ovulation and the menstrual cycle, by decreasing luteinizing hormones (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH). Likewise, prolactin and progesterone levels increase.
Tenderness of the breasts and enlargement of the gut.
Increased feeling of fatigue.
Decreased appetite.
Racing thoughts.
Feelings of heaviness
Women may also feel the baby’s movements, such as kicking or fluttering in the abdomen. Some women even experience nausea and vomiting , constipation , abdominal pain , vaginal bleeding , and weight gain or stretch marks as if they were pregnant.

How long does a psychological pregnancy last for a woman?
A psychological pregnancy in a woman can last from a few days to several months . The time varies depending on the personal and psychological situation of the woman, as well as the impact that this fact may have on her mental health and well-being.

Treatments include medications to relieve physical and psychological symptoms, as well as the use of professional therapy to address any issues that may be contributing to the condition.

For this reason, it is important to seek professional help in order to manage the symptoms properly and prevent possible complications related to the disorder.

Diagnosis of psychological pregnancy
Due to the complex nature of the problem, it is difficult to diagnose with certainty . To know how to differentiate a psychological pregnancy from a real one, it is important to submit the woman to different tests. The key is finding the right combination of tests to ensure that she receives the correct treatment to treat her condition in the most effective way possible.

Different tests that may be done to help diagnose a psychological pregnancy or phantom pregnancy include:

Blood test.
Urine tests.
MRI exams.
Psychiatric interviews to determine if the patient has typical symptoms such as pregnancy-related hallucinations or nightmares, depression, or anxiety.
Neuropsychological evaluation. This test is used to determine if the patient is at risk of developing a psychological pregnancy. It is done by measuring the ability to perform basic cognitive tasks such as remembering, reasoning, problem solving, and following orders. If the patient shows a low score on these tasks, it indicates that the patient may be at risk of developing it.

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