False pregnancy is a psycho–physiological disorder characterized by the erroneous belief of a woman in the presence of pregnancy on the basis of her neuroendocrine symptoms resembling signs of a true pregnancy. The condition occurs in women with increased suspiciousness and emotional disorders; it can manifest itself by stopping menstruation, toxicosis, breast enlargement, weight gain and abdominal volume. False pregnancy is recognized based on the data of gynecological examination, pregnancy test, ultrasound. Gynecologists, endocrinologists, and psychotherapists are involved in the treatment of a patient with a false pregnancy.
False pregnancy is also called hysterical, imaginary pregnancy or pseudo-pregnancy. False pregnancy is a rare disorder that occurs in gynecology in approximately 6 cases per 22,000 true pregnancies. With pseudo-pregnancy, a woman does not simulate her condition, but is really convinced of the presence of pregnancy, experiences and feels its signs.
False pregnancy syndrome can also be experienced by men whose partners are currently carrying a child. Such a disorder can develop against the background of a strong empathy for the condition of a woman in men of an infantile-hysterical psychotype. At the same time, men feel many symptoms that characterize the course of pregnancy in a partner.
The nature of the development has not been studied enough. It is assumed that it is based on psychological and emotional factors leading to endocrine, vegetative and somatic disorders. According to researchers, women experiencing a false pregnancy are characterized by a strong desire to feel the state of pregnancy and motherhood. Often, signs of false pregnancy in such women appear at the same time as their girlfriends or close relatives carrying children. Neurosis, psychosis, and hysteria often become the background for the development of this syndrome.
Stress, anxiety, increased anxiety and emotionality cause an increase in the production of pituitary hormones, which is also observed during a real pregnancy. As a result of hormonal imbalance, a whole symptom complex develops, forcing a woman to believe that she is expecting a child.
The risk category for the development includes women after 35-40 years, who have been trying to get pregnant for a long time and in vain and suffer from infertility. In addition, the condition can occur in women who have an unstable psyche, increased excitability and susceptibility to everything related to pregnancy and children, as well as those who have experienced the loss of a child or spontaneous termination of pregnancy at different terms.
In some cases, on the contrary, a false pregnancy develops in women who do not want to have children and are experiencing a panic fear of pregnancy and childbirth. There have also been cases against the background of endocrine pathology or gynecological diseases (ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, secondary amenorrhea, etc.).
False pregnancy is accompanied by vegetative and endocrine symptoms that mimic changes occurring in the female body after fertilization. In women with pseudo-pregnancy, there is a delay in menstruation, the appearance of signs of toxicosis (nausea, increased salivation, vomiting, fatigue, drowsiness, mood swings, perversion of food preferences, etc.).
In case of false pregnancy, breast enlargement and colostrum secretion may be observed; abdominal enlargement as a result of excessive development of subcutaneous tissue on the anterior abdominal wall and flatulence; weight gain, constipation; sensations of fetal movement associated with increased peristalsis. It is extremely rare for particularly suspicious women to have false labor contractions. It happens that with pseudo-pregnancy, the results of a pregnancy test turn out to be positive, which further makes a woman believe in the reality of her condition. Usually, signs of a false pregnancy persist for 3-4 months, although there are cases of its longer course.
The absence of a true pregnancy is established already during the gynecological examination. In a patient with a false pregnancy, objective changes from the genital organs are not detected – cyanosis of the cervix and vagina, enlargement and softening of the uterus.
To confirm the diagnosis of a false pregnancy, ultrasound is performed, the determination of chorionic gonadotropin in urine, and an overview radiography of the abdominal cavity. Differential diagnosis of pseudo-pregnancy is carried out with simulated pregnancy, frozen pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, tumor processes in the pelvic region.
The condition of false pregnancy usually does not require any special treatment. As a rule, a competent and sympathetic explanation of the situation by a gynecologist, as well as understanding and support from close people, is enough for a woman to eliminate imaginary feelings. With the disappearance of autosuggestion, a woman’s menstrual cycle is restored, the phenomena of toxicosis and other signs of pregnancy disappear.
If endocrine disorders are suspected in the patient, a gynecologist-endocrinologist or an endocrinologist therapist are involved in the treatment. In case of persistent refusal to believe in a false pregnancy and inadequate perception of reality, a woman is shown medical assistance by a neurologist, psychologist, psychotherapist. In women with neurosis-like reactions and mental disorders, the news of a false pregnancy can cause depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts; psychiatric treatment is required in these situations. Usually, after the cure, the condition of false pregnancy in women is no longer repeated.