Psychological pregnancy: why does it happen and what are its symptoms?

Giving birth is undoubtedly one of the happiest times for most women.. Having the ability to bring new life to the world after being housed there for nine months is something that fulfills all mothers who want to be happy.

But sometimes the desire to want to be a mother is so strong that even without having been, the body begins to show the symptoms of a real pregnancy. It makes the woman herself believe that she is pregnant, with all that that entails.

These types of situations are psychological pregnancies, a rare but very interesting phenomenon that this article will discuss. Let’s see what it is, what are its symptoms, what makes it different from a real pregnancy and how it should be treated.

Psychological pregnancy what is it?

Psychological pregnancy is the situation that occurs when a woman thinks she is pregnant without being pregnant because she is exhibiting objective symptoms typical of a condition. They are also called phantom pregnancies or pseudociesis, of “pseudo”, “false” and “Cesis”, “gestation”.

Although some hypotheses have been investigated as to why this happens, the truth is that it is not entirely clear why these types of false pregnancies occur in the human species.. One of the possible explanations that has been mentioned is that when you have a very strong desire to be a mother, the spirit ends up influencing the body, causing a series of typical pregnancy symptoms.

Physical reactions that manifest due to a mental cause are called psychosomatic reactions, therefore, psychological pregnancies are collections of psychosomatic symptoms. That is why gynecologists should approach this type of case very clearly and thoroughly, because, although there is no real pregnancy, the body behaves as if there really is one.


As we have said, during psychological pregnancy, the woman believes that she is conceiving a baby, and she may show objective symptoms that would at first glance indicate that she is indeed pregnant.

People who go through a pseudociesis, just like real pregnant women, experience hormonal changes. Luteinizing hormones (LH) and follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) decrease, causing you to stop ovulation and the menstrual cycle.

In contrast, prolactin and progesterone levels increase, causing several symptoms that are also typical of an actual pregnancy. Progesterone causes fatigue and drowsiness, while prolactin is responsible for secreting breast milk, even if there is no baby to feed it.

There are certain digestive disorders, such as constipation, nausea and vomiting, which can occur at any time of the day. In addition to desire-suffering and a greater sensitivity to certain smells and tastes.

One of the symptoms that make a woman think she is really pregnant is that her belly and breasts get bigger, the latter becoming especially tender. Added to this is the feeling of movement inside the uterus, as if there really is a developing fetus, and the sensation of kicking.

Other symptoms that a woman with a phantom pregnancy suffers from and which are common in actual pregnancies are dizziness, increased uterine volume and softening of the cervix, weight gain, and in some cases high blood pressure levels. high gonadotropins.

When the differential diagnosis is made, that is to say to know whether it is indeed a real pregnancy or, failing that, a pseudociesis, there are two fairly illuminating indicators. On the one hand, there is the fact that the navel did not come out, and on the other hand, the weight gain is greater than expected in a normal pregnancy.

However, what definitely clarifies that this is a fictitious pregnancy is the negative pregnancy tests and ultrasounds in which no fetus was found.


Several causes can explain why a woman thinks she is really pregnant.. After all, this type of situation manifests itself in a psychosomatic way, that is, the mind has generated physical symptoms in a woman’s body.

One of the most common causes is a woman’s desire to get pregnant, but she has a hard time getting it. This usually occurs in women who have had fertility problems, a history of multiple abortions, or, in more severe cases, the loss of a newborn baby. Living in a sexist environment in which being seen as a mother means meeting every woman’s vital goal also promotes fictitious pregnancies.

Another cause is that women are about to enter menopause and are afraid of this new period and create a whole repertoire of stereotypical beliefs about how they lose their youth and “productivity”.

Phantom pregnancy cases are also given to women who are afraid of getting pregnant. While it may seem counterintuitive, the truth is that it can happen frequently with young girls who are just starting their sex lives and come from conservative families.

In couples where there are problems, having a child is sometimes seen as the solution. This can make the woman believe that she did get pregnant and that the end of the tension with her boyfriend or her husband has come. You can also think of pregnancy as the reason why the couple will spend more time with the woman, receive more care and, if necessary, delay the breakup.


Telling a woman she is not pregnant when she has believed the opposite for months is no easy task. This requires great delicacy and the collaboration of the couple.

As already mentioned, the causes of the suffering of a psychological pregnancy can be varied and the woman having a repertoire of beliefs and desires that “justify” her pregnancy. For this reason, it is necessary to show him that he is not really in a state, but to do so in the gentlest way possible to avoid emotional problems while receiving anger.

Thanks to advances in technology, especially applied in the field of medicine, it is possible to demonstrate very objectively that a woman is not pregnant. As we said, ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, among other techniques, show that he is not in condition. Sometimes it is enough to end the pseudociesis and the symptoms will go away over time.

However, other women just don’t believe it, either because they have believed the lie for a long time, or because they want to have a baby so badly that they refuse to admit the reality.

The first professional the woman went to was her gynecologist, Who will have to make sure to show all the objective evidence that confirms that there is no pregnancy and, if possible, elucidate where this case came from. Although it is up to the psychologist to find the causes which led to this situation, it is not recommended to refer the patient immediately, as this can generate a strong reluctance to think he has a mental disorder.

When it is time to see a mental health professional, the psychologist will be tasked with following treatment for the woman, seeing how the acceptance of the news affected her mood, and investigating the causes. leads to this phantom pregnancy.

If the woman, after all the efforts of the gynecologist, doctor and psychologist, fails to understand the real situation, then the psychological pregnancy may be just the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger problem and whether it is a case of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or, in more severe cases, a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia.

Are you pregnant with men?

As surprising as it may seem, in the same way that there are women who, without being pregnant, show symptoms of pregnancy, there are men who, despite the biological impossibility of their sex, also show physical signs of pregnancy. pregnancy.

This is called Couvade syndrome, coming from the French word “couver” which means “to incubate”.

It is not that the man thinks she is pregnant, however, she is exhibiting the same symptoms as her boyfriend or wife who is in fact in a condition. If she vomits, so does he; if she wants, he also likes to eat; and if she’s gaining weight, so is she.

Attempt to find out a little more about this syndrome. It is believed that in normal pregnancies, 10% of men pass manifest Couvade syndrome, While the percentage increases to 25 in case of problematic pregnancy.

The possibility of this happening because the man is so heavily involved in the woman’s pregnancy process has been investigated, although it could also be due to a need for attention that is now focused on her partner. . Another of the causes that could be behind this is a little more serious, just like a personality disorder in men.

Symptoms in men are very similar to those of a normal pregnancy, with mood swings, weight gain, and bloating in addition to stomach problems. They all disappear when the woman gives birth.

Bibliographical references:

  • Tarin, JJ; Hermenegildo, C .; Garcia-Perez, MA; Cano, A. (2013). Endocrinology and physiology of pseudolysis ”. Reproductive biology and endocrinology 11 (39).
  • Carbary, LJ (1982). Unisex false pregnancy. Journal of Nursing 15 (4): 18-21.

Leave a Comment