Cryptic and phantom pregnancies are polar opposite disorders that make a true pregnancy undiscoverable, or a believed pregnancy turn out to be false. Both humans and animals have the potential to experience either cryptic or phantom pregnancies, but what exactly causes these phenomena is still unknown, even with medical and veterinary research. However, both types of pregnancies have unmistakable power to influence the body to the effect of influencing hormone levels, physical symptoms, mental beliefs, and perception.
Cryptic pregnancies are when a person goes near or to full term in their pregnancy, often with little to no signs of pregnancy. The signs are often mistaken for weight gain or just not feeling ‘yourself’. The majority of cryptic pregnancies become known when the person is moments before giving birth, often in their own homes or even in public situations. Cryptic pregnancies are far from unusual, with the number of parents finding out they are pregnant in week 20 being 1 in 475 and the number of cases, where a baby is born without the person knowing they were pregnant until they are in labour, is 1 in 2,500 worldwide. However, although cryptic pregnancies are becoming an international phenomenon, it’s still a strange concept to believe.
A phantom pregnancy, also known as pseudocyesis, is an uncommon condition that makes a person falsely believe they’re pregnant. This is supported by numerous classic symptoms of pregnancy, such as weight gain, stomach cramps, nausea and swollen breasts. Essentially, a phantom pregnancy is a pregnancy minus the foetus. Phantom pregnancies in both animals, such as pandas, and humans are often persistent, lasting months, even to the extent the family and friends around them believe they’re expecting a newborn. Yet, what exactly causes these pregnancy phenomena is still unknown and the taboo continues.
The medical research behind cryptic pregnancies is minimal but other factors, such as: lack of symptoms, irregular periods, birth control and psychology can all be contributing factors that may lead to a cryptic pregnancy. Lack of symptoms can be a blessing to some people, as they breeze through their unknown pregnancy avoiding the discomfort of nausea, swollen breasts and chronic fatigue. Psychology is a powerful tool that can trick the brain into either believing, or not, that the person is pregnant through having the power to influence hormone levels and influencing the body’s anatomy. Psychology can impose full denial on the person’s hidden pregnancy if high stress levels, depression and anxiety are present. It is suggested that people who are overweight or suffer from eating disorders may not experience the same physical symptoms of weight gain and showing of the bump, but there are also records of healthy people experiencing a cryptic pregnancy. However, cryptic pregnancies are not wholly supported by these factors and are still a growing phenomenon.
On the contrary, a phantom pregnancy is when somebody genuinely believes they are pregnant, even though they are not. Often the symptoms are so realistic even doctors believe the pregnancy is real. The only way to demonstrate the person is not actually pregnant is by medical tests, such as ultrasounds and scans. This often brings the phantom pregnancies to an immediate halt in humans, but in animal cases phantom pregnancies often run their course until the phantom pregnancy naturally ends. Phantom pregnancies don’t have direct physical causes and cause no long term physical effects. Whereas, naturally cryptic pregnancies bring both mental and physical trauma for both parents as the lifestyle shock of having a newborn in a number of seconds, compared to 40 weeks. Phantom Pregnancies are more common in people who struggle with mental disorders but that is not always the case, and either way therapy is often a needed treatment for those who experience these pregnancies.
The only mirror similarity between cryptic and phantom pregnancies is the harsh and offensive judgements received by people. People judge the people by questioning and invalidating their common sense, their mental stability and how truthful their stories are. This often leads to people keeping their cryptic or phantom pregnancy hidden to avoid the harsh judgements.