False pregnancy – a psycho-physiological disorder characterized by the erroneous belief of a woman in the presence of pregnancy on the basis of her existing neuroendocrine symptoms resembling signs of a true pregnancy. The state of false pregnancy occurs in women with heightened suspiciousness and emotional disorders; may manifest as cessation of menstruation, toxicosis, an increase in the mammary glands, an increase in the weight and volume of the abdomen. False pregnancy is recognized on the basis of data of a gynecological examination, pregnancy test, ultrasound. Gynecologists, endocrinologists, and psychotherapists are involved in treating a patient with a false pregnancy.
False pregnancy also called a hysterical, imaginary pregnancy or pseudo-pregnancy. False pregnancy is a rare disorder that occurs in gynecology in about 6 cases per 22,000 true pregnancies. With pseudo-pregnancy, the woman does not pretend to be her condition, but is truly convinced of the presence of pregnancy, is experiencing and feeling its signs.
A false pregnancy syndrome (Kuvad syndrome) can also be experienced by men whose female partners are currently carrying a child. Such a disorder can develop against the background of a strong empathy for a woman’s status in infantile-hysterical psycho-type in men. In this case, men feel many of the symptoms that characterize the course of pregnancy in their partner.
Causes of false pregnancy
The nature of the development of false pregnancy syndrome is not well understood. It is assumed that it is based on psychological and emotional factors leading to endocrine, autonomic and somatic disorders. According to researchers, women experiencing a false pregnancy tend to have a strong desire to feel the state of pregnancy and motherhood. Often, signs of false pregnancy in these women appear at the same time as their girlfriends or close relatives who have children. The background for the development of false pregnancy syndrome often becomes a neurosis, psychosis, hysteria.
Stress, anxiety, increased anxiety and emotionality cause an increase in the production of pituitary hormones, which is also observed during a real pregnancy. As a result of hormonal imbalance, a whole symptom complex develops, forcing a woman to believe that she is expecting a child.
The risk category for the development of a false pregnancy includes women after 35–40 years of age, who are long and vainly trying to get pregnant and suffer from infertility. In addition, the state of false pregnancy can occur in women who have an unstable psyche, increased excitability and susceptibility to everything related to pregnancy and children, as well as survivors of the loss of a child or spontaneous abortion on different terms.
In some cases, on the contrary, a false pregnancy develops in women who do not want to have children and have a panic fear of pregnancy and childbirth. Also reported cases of false pregnancy on the background of endocrine pathology or gynecological diseases (ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, secondary amenorrhea, etc.).
Symptoms of a false pregnancy
False pregnancy is accompanied by autonomic and endocrine symptoms that mimic the changes that occur in the female body after fertilization. In women with pseudo-pregnancy, there is a delay in menstruation, signs of toxicosis (nausea, excessive salivation, vomiting, fatigue, drowsiness, mood swings, food addiction distortions, etc.).
In a false pregnancy, breast engorgement and colostrum can be observed; an increase in the abdomen as a result of excessive development of subcutaneous tissue on the anterior abdominal wall and meteorism; weight gain, constipation; feelings of fetal movement associated with increased peristalsis. It is extremely rare for particularly suspicious women to have false labor pains. It happens that with pseudo-pregnancy the results of the pregnancy test are positive, which makes the woman believe in the reality of her condition even more. Usually signs of a false pregnancy persist for 3-4 months, although there are cases of its longer course.
Diagnosis of false pregnancy
The absence of a true pregnancy is already established during a gynecological examination. A patient with a false pregnancy does not determine objective changes on the part of the reproductive organs – cyanosis of the cervix and vagina, enlargement and softening of the uterus.
To confirm the diagnosis of a false pregnancy, an ultrasound scan, determination of chorionic gonadotropin in the urine, and an X-ray of the abdominal cavity are performed. Differential diagnostics in pseudo-pregnancy is carried out with simulated pregnancy, missed abortion, ectopic pregnancy, and tumor processes in the pelvic region.
False pregnancy treatment
A false pregnancy usually does not require any special treatment. As a rule, for a woman to eliminate imaginary feelings, there is a fairly competent and sympathetic explanation of the situation by a gynecologist, as well as understanding and support from close people. With the disappearance of self-hypnosis in women, the menstrual cycle is restored, the effects of toxicosis and other signs of pregnancy disappear.
If the patient suspects endocrine disorders, the gynecologist-endocrinologist or therapist-endocrinologist is involved in the treatment. In case of persistent refusal to believe in a false pregnancy and inadequate perception of reality, the woman is shown medical assistance of a neurologist, psychologist, psychotherapist. In women with neurosis-like reactions and mental disorders, the news of a false pregnancy can cause depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts; psychiatric treatment is required in these situations. After cure, the condition of false pregnancy in women usually does not recur.