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!


  1. Tiffiany Schueler

    I wanted to share my story here because unlike some who discover they’re pregnant when they’re in labor I knew I was pregnant from the beginning, thought I miscarried only to discover much later, nope still pregnant!
    So basically I missed my period took a test and knew within the first two months I was pregnant but almost as soon as I passed the first trimester I experienced pain and heavy bleeding. I’ve miscarried before so I assumed that was what happened. I do fitness competitions so I resumed training and began competing again. Now after every show I would have a cheat meal and I would blow up but I thought nothing of it because that can happen after a show, and within a couple of weeks I would drop back down to my competition weight and physique. I also didn’t resume my period nor did I gain much weight over the course of my pregnancy because I was still competing. It wasn’t until I stopped competing for the season that I discovered I was still pregnant but just like everyone else my pregnancy tests were inconsistent. By August i was experiencing movement and I knew for sure I was pregnant but I still didn’t gain much weight. It wasn’t until literally right before I gave birth like a month before that I looked plausibly pregnant and even then I gained all over but never really ever developed a baby bump. Ultrasounds proved I was still pregnant even while blood and urine tests remained inconsistent. It was certainly a roller coaster for me and my husband, as well as our circle of friends and families as I went from being pregnant to not pregnant to pregnant again! But I am happy to say I gave birth to a healthy baby girl in Nov and while she was very underweight, not even 5 lbs, I was so lucky that there were no other complications given everything I put my body through while I was pregnant with her and competing. So just wanted to share my story. Never even knew or believed there was such a thing until it happened to me! But I am also living proof you can have a healthy happy baby despite it all!

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