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?