A 37-year-old woman from Brazil made headlines this week when doctors performed an emergency C-section on her only to realize she was not pregnant. The woman believed she was 41 weeks pregnant and was admitted to a hospital after complaining about abdominal pain. Not sure if her doctors gave her a sonogram or why they wouldn't after failing to detect a heartbeat, but they reportedly decided to perform a Cesarean because she looked pregnant and was experiencing some pregnancy symptoms, like nausea.
This story sounds fishy, but the woman's actual condition isn't as odd as you may think. Docs say she had a "phantom" pregnancy, which is when women are so thoroughly convinced they are pregnant that they actually experience bodily changes that resemble those felt during pregnancy.
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Before I became pregnant with my second child, my husband and I tried to conceive for about eight months. During this time, I also began noticing that my menstrual cycle had changed a bit, which is a totally normal thing that often happens to women in their 30s. I began dealing with hellish PMS symptoms, the likes of which I hadn't experienced since I was 14.
There was one month when I knew -- I just KNEW -- I was pregnant. I felt an immediate change in my body. I waited to take a pregnancy test because it was still too early -- but all of the right symptoms began popping up on cue. My period was late. My breasts became tender. I experienced nausea and would cry uncontrollably at the drop of a hat. These signs persisted for two weeks until I broke down and took a pregnancy test.
It was negative. But I was still utterly convinced that I was pregnant because my body didn't ordinarily do the crazy things it was doing without a good reason. My husband gently tried to talk some reason into me and reminded me that, by now, the test would likely be positive.
But he wasn't in my body. He couldn't possibly understand the way a pregnancy feels.
I tortured myself for one more week. I Googled "false negative pregnancy tests" and only paid attention to the stories that had happy endings. And then my period came -- three weeks late. I was a hysterical mess. I had wanted to believe my body wasn't lying to me, but I had to admit to myself that I'd created those physical responses.
We forget how easy it is to create false realities for ourselves, especially when we are desperate to become pregnant. The brain is so powerful that it can even disrupt hormonal balances in women who experience false pregnancies, causing an increase in the pregnancy hormone and even the stimulation of milk producing cells.
My advice to any woman who suspects she is pregnant but doesn't have proof is not to wait to visit a doctor. The longer I let my mind wander, the more confused I became. And it goes without saying: stay off of Google.
Were you ever convinced you were pregnant when you weren't?
Image via Jacob Botter/Flickr