Have you ever watched the show “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” on TLC? It profiles women who, for whatever reason, have no idea that they are with child until they get into an accident and are notified by a doctor or feel the urge to have a bowel movement and find themselves pushing out a newborn instead. The re-enactments of these scenarios are hilarious and kind of fascinating, and after watching them with a gaping mouth and a good laugh it’s hard not to sit back and say “Whew! What kind of denial was she in? Well, that would never be me!”

The surprising reality is that in spite of negative pregnancy tests, regular periods, and a lack of noticeable baby bump, 1 in 450 women don’t find out they’re pregnant until the 20th week or later and 1 in 2,500 don’t find out until she goes into labor. Believe it or not, all of that is not due to negligence or denial. It’s called “cryptic pregnancy,” and scientists have a perfectly reasonable explanation for it.

From The Huffington Post:

One way that embryos and fetuses make their demands known is by putting out a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). This is the hormone that makes a home pregnancy test turn positive. A baby that produces a scant amount amount of HCG might go “under the radar,” failing the pregnancy test and going undetected by the mother. When a fetus doesn’t put out much HCG, he or she also gets fewer resources. This explains why these babies are so often small for their age and are born preterm and underweight.

Scientists explain that a number of factors can cause cryptic pregnancy, including fetal birth defects, genetic abnormalities, or stress in the life of the mother that manifests itself physically.

Years ago my friend’s sister “turned up pregnant” during leave from the Army and was already five months along before she found out — pregnant with twins at that. I just knew she there was some shady business afoot, so underneath my genuine well wishes and excitement about her adorable babies was a big old side-eye. Don’t I feel ridiculous now?

Has cryptic pregnancy ever happened to you or anyone you know? Tell us about it in the comments!

  • J.J

    Also I get bloated really easily now and get hungry closer together than I used to.

  • Lala Gipsy

    I had no idea I was pregnant until I was 12 weeks, and then only because I had a regularly scheduled gyno appointment to have my birth control prescription renewed. I didn’t have my period for 3 months but I assumed that was due to my birth control running out and I suddenly going off of it until I could make the appointment for the check up. My doc noticed my uterus was distended and had me do a urine test just in case. It was positive. Now, I hadn’t had ANY symptoms. I had no belly, I hadn’t been sick once, besides a bout of the flu a few weeks previous and I had never vomited or been nauseous. It’s odd though because a few DAYS after I apparently conceived, I felt different. I started waking up very early when I usually slept in and having vivid dreams. It all stopped about 3 weeks later so I thought I must be crazy. another week and I started a new job. I began to become tired more quickly and I almost always passed out after I got home from work. Never thought it could be anything other than regular tiredness. I still fit into my jeans until after my gyno appointment confirmed the pregnancy, than suddenly I couldn’t fit into anything anymore. I started to get a belly a week later. I started to feel my uterus contracting and muscle pain as it grew. It’s like once my brain dropped the mental block that was not knowing I was pregnant, my body went into overdrive making up for it. I had an abortion a month ago, after a difficult two weeks trying to decide what to do. In a way it was a dream pregnancy for me since I suffer from acute emetophobia and I was already out of the window when women usually have morning sickness without having had any at all. My biggest fear was birth, and what would happen after. I didn’t work, and my ex (the father) was not supportive in the least. I gave in to peer pressure and aborted. now I’m worried the abortion could lead to infertility or that my next pregnancy won’t be as ‘hassle free’ during the first trimester as this one was.