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Cryptic Pregnancy

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Cryptic Pregnancy

4 min read


It can be pretty bizarre to hear, but one must know there can be times when a woman is not aware that she is pregnant. Read this article to know in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richa Agarwal

Published At January 4, 2022
Reviewed AtApril 10, 2024

What Is Cryptic Pregnancy?

Cryptic pregnancy is also called stealth or denied pregnancy. Almost half of the gestation period will be over by the time the woman knows that she is pregnant. Sometimes, the woman may know that she is pregnant only a few days before delivery.

This condition takes a toll on the mental well-being of both the woman and the family. It gives one a mixed feeling, like when one believes they are pregnant and takes a test only to get a negative test report. In some cases, knowing about pregnancy only after almost seven to nine months have passed is scary. Very few people are taken aback since labor pain becomes the initial sign of pregnancy.

The absence of pregnancy symptoms, getting a false negative pregnancy test, or not taking the test due to mental disorders are a few of the reasons why pregnancy is left unnoticed.

What Is the Length of Cryptic Pregnancy?

As the person is unaware of when the pregnancy started, calculating the number of weeks is quite tricky. Due to the initial reduced hormone levels, cryptic pregnancy is present for extended periods than a normal pregnancy, as per a few shreds of evidence.

In some, the chances of preterm birth are possible due to the absence of prenatal care, lifestyle, and inadequate diet.

What Are the Symptoms of Cryptic Pregnancy?

There are no specific symptoms of pregnancy or any other symptoms seen of cryptic pregnancy. Sometimes, the symptoms can be seen a few days before one delivers a baby.

A study shows a case of this condition wherein lower back pain, constipation, and abdominal discomfort can be seen before the start of labor. Thus, the late onset of symptoms causes the person to delay seeking a doctor’s consultation and getting a pregnancy test done.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Cryptic Pregnancy?

A cryptic pregnancy can happen due to various reasons, and there does not exist one specific reason or risk factor for its occurrence.

  • Irregular Menstruation: If one experiences an irregular menstrual cycle that typically lasts for days longer than 28, then they cannot suspect pregnancy just because they have missed one. Therefore, irregular menstruation can make things difficult to determine pregnancy.

  • False-Negative Pregnancy Test Report: Pregnancy tests produce results with accuracy in most cases; however, errors can happen at times. In such cases, one might be pregnant, although their test report says negative.

  • Pregnancy Spotting: It is pretty common to have spotting and bleeding during the gestation period. Mistaking this for lighter periods can cause pregnancy to be left unnoticed.

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: With the hormonal imbalances associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovulation cannot be adequately identified. This can bring about a miscalculation in the safe days that cause unnoticed pregnancy.

  • No Visible Baby Bump: When the mother is obese or overweight, a pregnancy bump is not prominent.

  • Absence of Pregnancy Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, enlargement of the abdomen, cramps in the pelvis, and lower back pain are pregnancy symptoms that differ from one person to another.

  • Age: Some people might get confused between the symptoms of pregnancy and menopause.

  • Sporting Activities: There can be missing periods for several months in persons involved in athletic events or who have low body fat. Identifying pregnancy becomes difficult in high-impact sports persons due to some reduced hormone levels.

  • Fertility Problems: A person who has been diagnosed with infertility earlier does not believe that pregnancy is possible.

  • Recent Pregnancy: Every person has different postpartum fertility timing, after which ovulation starts occurring. Also, for those who have recently given birth, pregnancy symptoms are not that noticeable.

  • Contraceptive Use: Some people might have a false belief that they have used contraceptives and cannot be pregnant.

  • No Baby Movement: How the baby's movements are felt is influenced by the fetal and placental location, especially in the anterior placental position, the recognition of fetal movements is complex and takes time.

  • Psychological Disorders: Although rare, people with specific psychological disorders are not convinced that they are pregnant and deny it.

Why Do Pregnancy Tests Show Negative Results in Cryptic Pregnancy?

When there is a condition of hormone imbalance like polycystic ovarian syndrome, irregular menstruation, or if the person is athletic, the uphill and downhill of the hormones do not produce enough hCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin) to be identified in a home pregnancy test.

Also, if the ultrasound is not taken in the correct place, then identifying the fetus becomes difficult.

Are Labor and Delivery After Cryptic Pregnancy Different From Typical Pregnancy?

In terms of the happenings in the body, cryptic pregnancy is similar to that of a normal pregnancy. Just like a typical pregnancy, there will be contractions which are felt with severe cramps that stretch the cervix to aid in delivery. However, in terms of mental health, cryptic pregnancy produces psychological distress as they were not aware of the pregnancy and were not expecting it.

Also, having a doctor who has a record of prenatal care will not be there. Reach out to emergency immediately if one feel contractions like cramps.

What Are the Complications of Cryptic Pregnancy?

Prenatal care, if not given even for a short period of time, poses a variety of health risks to both the mother and the fetus. These persons are not given the prenatal care needed for a safe and healthy pregnancy. With a lack of prenatal care, premature birth is seen in many cases.

Inadequate prenatal care makes it difficult for the doctor to have enough information about the abnormalities, associated complications, and the advised safe delivery method.

In a few, pregnancy is detected only during labor, making it challenging to get assistance from a healthcare provider.

Also, the use of tobacco and alcohol is possible in mothers who are unaware of their pregnancy.

What Should One Do When They Get Diagnosed With Cryptic Pregnancy?

Although it can be stressful to know that one is pregnant any time after 20 weeks, pregnancy and postnatal guidance should be sought from a healthcare professional. An unexpected change will surely give a person a feeling of doubt, can make them anxious, or produce fatigue after delivery. It is advisable to contact the doctor if one experiences irritability, grief, lack of interest in activities they enjoyed before, attachment loss with the baby, or confusion regarding caregiving. These are treatable conditions.


Pregnancy not only differs from person to person but also can be different in the same person. Hearing about unnoticed pregnancy can be quite weird. However, it happens. When one has an active sexual life, it is always recommended to get tested for pregnancy, even with the mildest symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does a Baby Bump Appear During Cryptic Pregnancy?

Cryptic pregnancies often do not cause usual pregnancy symptoms. So, pregnancy bumps are not always noticeable. Depending on the fetus is positioned, body weight distribution and its growth rate, women experiencing cryptic pregnancies may not show any baby bumps., especially common in younger athletic women who get pregnant for the first time.


What Is the Duration of Cryptic Pregnancy?

Generally, a pregnancy is considered cryptic when the woman does not notice the pregnancy and goes 20 weeks or more without knowing that they are pregnant. There are cases where a woman goes to the hospital with severe pelvic pain and discovers they are in labor.


Are Babies in Cryptic Pregnancy Normal?

Research suggests infants born from a cryptic pregnancy are more likely to be underweight and born prematurely. Being premature, there is a high risk of respiratory issues and poor growth. This can be due to improper care during pregnancy, as mothers are unaware of their pregnancy.


How to Detect a Cryptic Pregnancy?

People with a cryptic pregnancy experience similar symptoms as a normal pregnancy, but they do not recognize that pregnancy is the cause of their symptoms. The symptoms include missed periods, spotting, sore or swollen breasts, nausea or vomiting, bloating, fatigue, and cramping.


How to Confirm a Cryptic Pregnancy?

Despite having a negative pregnancy test, people who are confident they are pregnant should talk with their doctor or another healthcare professional. A blood test is the most specific and accurate pregnancy test. Healthcare professionals check for the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the blood.


Is Cryptic Pregnancy Hurting?

The labor pain will be similar to normal pregnancy for women with cryptic pregnancies. When the baby is fully developed, and when the labor starts, a woman will experience cryptic pregnancy feelings like severe cramps, and her cervix dilates to push the baby out through the birth canal.


Can a Baby Hide in an Ultrasound?

It is very rare, but there is a small chance that a baby can hide from ultrasound. If an early ultrasound does not show a baby does not mean the worst thing has happened, also a scan showing a baby does not always mean it is alone in the uterus. It is always advisable to consult the doctor to be safe.


Who Is Susceptible to Cryptic Pregnancy?

Anybody can experience cryptic pregnancy. However, the following are at high risk:
- Individuals with PCOS.
- Women using birth control.
- New mother.
- Women in perimenopause.
- Women who have never been pregnant.


Can a Pregnant Woman Undergo Menstruation?

If a woman is pregnant, it is impossible to get periods. But pregnant women can have another form of bleeding that might feel and look like a period. Usually, many women have a small amount of bleeding when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterus, known as implantation bleeding. It is usually dark brown or light pink in color.


How to Check Pulse to Confirm Pregnancy?

One can measure their own heart rate by taking their pulse. To do so, place the index and middle fingers on the wrist of the other hand, just below the thumb, where the pulse can be felt. Then count the heartbeats for 60 seconds, which will be the heart rate per minute.


How to Check the Stomach for Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, pregnant women can experience a firm stomach, as their developing uterus puts pressure on their abdomen. A usual touch on the stomach might not be sufficient to provide proof of pregnancy. In most women, the pregnancy can be felt during the seventh and eighth week, as the stomach hardens due to the abdominal muscle beginning to stretch.


How Does a Pregnant Stomach Feel?

The reality is the pregnant belly has no normal to compare with. It varies depending on the pregnancy stage, the body type of pregnant women, and even the time of day. Sometimes the belly will feel soft, and other times it will feel hard and tight. Pregnant bellies come in all sizes, shapes, and firmness.


What Type of Breast Pain Indicates Pregnancy?

During the initial stage of pregnancy, the breasts may feel more tingly and sore. Also, the bra may not fit quite as it used to. These signs occur due to the hormone changes occurring in a pregnant woman's body. The breast size increases during pregnancy, rapidly in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. The nipples become prominent and mobile. Also, nipple pain and tingling sensation may be felt.


How Common Is Cryptic Pregnancy?

Cryptic pregnancies are very uncommon. Studies show that around one in every 475 are unaware of their pregnancy until they are past 20 weeks into their pregnancy. More surprisingly, one in 2500 women does not know they are pregnant until they go into labor.
Dr. Richa Agarwal
Dr. Richa Agarwal

Obstetrics and Gynecology


cryptic pregnancy
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