How would you react if you learned you were pregnant when you’re already in your third trimester? Read one mum’s experience with cryptic pregnancy and the emotions, challenges, and surprises that came with it.
What can you read in this article?
- Her reaction when she learned she was seven months pregnant
- Cryptic pregnancy – how can you not know you’re pregnant?
- Feelings of guilt and how she was able to overcome it
I didn’t know I was pregnant until I was past my seventh month.
Yes, 7 weeks before I popped. No single clue of any life growing inside my belly. I didn’t know that it was possible to be pregnant and not know about it; more so to bear a child without a baby bump. I was in utter disbelief.
Learning about my pregnancy was not right away, a ‘Yay, I’m pregnant!’ kind of feeling. I was full of doubts, worries, and fear. All I had in mind were questions after questions after questions about my condition. So naturally, I looked up what I was going through online.
So, what exactly is it? Medically, it is called stealth or cryptic pregnancy. According to Healthline, cryptic pregnancy happens in 1 out of 475 cases. It is a type of pregnancy that conventional medical testing methods may fail to detect. They’re not common, but they’re not unheard of, either.
In fact, just recently, a 38-year old woman gave birth in a plane inside a bathroom. She didn’t know she was 29 weeks pregnant until she was already in labour. Luckily, there were NICU nurses and a doctor on board who helped her out. Read the full story here.
Healthline listed conditions that can be confused with pregnancy:
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – causes skipped or irregular periods
- Perimenopause – weight gain and hormone fluctuations can mimic perimenopause symptoms
- Birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- Getting pregnant again after pregnancy, before period returns cause delayed ovulation and period
- Low body fat and athletic activity can cause periods to disappear for months at a time
For me, going for months to even a year without having my monthly period was normal. But in 2019, I decided I had to see an OB-Gynaecologist because, for the first time, it was the other way around – I had been spotting for a year. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in February and was prescribed pills and medication for three months.
PCOS, according to Mayo Clinic, is a hormonal disorder wherein women have elevated levels of the hormone androgen and tiny in your ovaries which can cause it to malfunction leading to having irregular periods.
How I Found Out
Although I had access to medical care, I wasn’t the type who would bring herself to the doctor at the slightest hint of pain. I would usually just brush it aside. GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder), dizzy spells, fatigue – I was used to getting them all the time because I work at night.
But that November, it felt different. It was like something was telling me that I needed to have myself checked. I’ve had a few trips to the Emergency Room before and would always decline to get a routine pregnancy test because I was so sure I wasn’t pregnant.
I took home pregnancy tests in July, August, and November. I would always do it twice at the same time using 2 different brands of kit. It always returned negative – no faint second line, just always one very clear line on all brands, at all instances. I was sure I wasn’t pregnant. In the ER, they give me medications for my GERD and dizziness, have me rest until I feel better, then send me home.
Those puzzled looks
But for some unexplainable reason, I felt like the usual trip to the ER wasn’t gonna do it this time. So I went to see a Gastroenterologist on December 9. Again, I was asked the same question: “Are you pregnant?” I confidently said, “No, I wasn’t.”
The doctor believed me since the last time I checked was just a week before that consultation. He then ordered more blood tests, whole abdomen ultrasound, and scheduled an Endoscopy the next day. I went back to do all the tests, December 10.
They did my blood first, then my boyfriend and I went up to the operating room since I needed to be sedated for my Endoscopy. After the procedure, we went down again for my whole abdomen ultrasound.
Two medical professionals were inside the room with us – a nurse and a doctor. Both looked very confused but also very worried at the same time. They left and came back, twice.
Maybe they just needed confirmation from their colleagues, or maybe they were juggling two patients at the same time. I found it a little odd, but didn’t really mind.
But maybe I should have. Maybe I should’ve wondered why they had to ask repetitive questions of when my last menstrual period was as if I was giving them a wrong answer.
Also, that doppler with cold gel was poking my belly as if my insides are giving them an image they’re not supposed to see. We were there for an hour and a half, I’m not even kidding.
The moment of truth
The next day, while I was having my breakfast, I saw the test results from the day before at arm’s reach, so I took the paperwork and read them page by page.
Blood tests show I’m anemic which explained my dizzy spells and why I was easily exhausted. Then I opened an envelope with a CD inside, it was the result of my whole abdomen ultrasound.
I had to close my eyes for a while – in seconds I was panting, I couldn’t breathe. It read, “Uterus: Enlarged with a single live intrauterine pregnancy noted.”
I’m pregnant? I cried, I wanted to throw up, I was losing my breath from crying too much, and I felt like my insides were being pulled out, one by one. My head was spinning, I couldn’t feel my hands nor my legs.
I was alone at home so I lied down, sent my boyfriend a text, and told him to go out of his office and call me ASAP. While waiting for his call, I backtracked the events as far back as my confused memory could remember.
He finally called. “I’m pregnant,” I told him. He was silent. I knew he was listening even though he was silent. We found ourselves asking the same questions. How is it possible? Why didn’t we know?
He stayed on the line, quietly waiting for me to finish crying hysterically, he told me to calm down and not to panic and reassured me that I shouldn’t be afraid and that we are in it together. Then he told me to pray. After his work, he brought me to the clinic to have a serum pregnancy test – as if we were still unsure of the pregnancy.
No Time to Waste
The results came out and it was positive – I’m pregnant. We already believed it this time, but to be honest, it didn’t sink in to us right away.
So we just focused on the facts: the foetal heart rate was within the normal range, amniotic fluid volume was good, foetal size was appropriate to age. My 7-month-old baby boy is okay, my OB-GYN said. We were relieved.
Just a few more weeks to go before I pop so I had no time to waste. I was immediately on complete bed rest as ordered by my OB-GYN because apparently, there was a pain in my abdomen which I failed to notice because of my high pain tolerance. I didn’t know there was a pain until she asked me if there was. It turned out they were premature contractions, and my baby boy was at risk of premature birth.
Moments of realization
All the weird things I experienced over the past months were pregnancy symptoms – the cravings, dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness, even the crying, all of it. What struck me the most was the spasm-like movement I felt in my intestines. I tried to really locate where the spasm was and really describe what the movement was like, then it hit me, it’s my baby.
The fast heartbeat, as if my heart’s pounding out my chest, it’s my baby. The movements, as if my insides have a mind of their own, it’s my baby switching positions.
I listened to my doctor and stayed in bed until my baby was full term and I was approximately 30 weeks pregnant during my initial OB check-up.
I began to notice pregnancy symptoms I didn’t see before. My emotions, sensitivity to temperature, and changes in my sense of smell. I’ve always loved my partner’s perfume, but suddenly I would feel like vomiting the moment I smell him.
I noticed I always wanted his attention so I would annoy him but would also want to be around him. Most of the time, I find myself staring at his face, especially in the morning.
I was always on the chubbier side so gaining weight, the increase in appetite, and having weird cravings were no stranger to me. The most distinguishable change of all – my baby bump. What used to be just a bloated tummy now looks like a pregnant lady’s belly.
Since I had nothing else to do then, I kept myself busy reading and searching online about pregnancy, cryptic pregnancy, newborn care, and of course, I had to do online shopping for our baby’s stuff.
I had 7 weeks to do all those while I lay in bed. Different thoughts and emotions consumed my mind. Thinking back at those 7 months, my mind was filled with anger and disappointment towards myself. How could I not know?
When I found out I was indeed pregnant and in my third trimester, it took me even more months to forgive myself. No vitamins for my baby, no prenatal checkups, no fetal heart monitoring – my baby wasn’t taken care of for 7 months.
I cannot convince myself to be okay with it. Because of cryptic pregnancy, my baby probably felt alone, just taking what’s available, lonely with no one speaking to him just like what a pregnant mom would do. He probably felt neglected, even. Those possibilities made it even harder for me to forgive myself.
Meeting My Beautiful Surprise
So I just prayed hard that I may deliver a healthy baby boy – and I did. I gave birth on February 25.
Forgiving myself was a process. It didn’t come as soon as I held on to that familiar stranger I have carried in my womb for months. But it was because of the sweet innocent face I wake up to each day, with the most beautiful smile that pierces through my soul, and with a gaze that tells me, I’m enough. I may have had a lot of misses, but I am enough, and that I am needed by his chubby little fingers to hold onto.
Cryptic pregnancy is scary – it isn’t the healthiest for a mother’s mental health, definitely not the best for a growing foetus inside a womb, but it is real.
Reach out to your doctor should you have any doubts or if you believe you are pregnant even after a negative pregnancy test.
My baby fought hard. Despite my mistakes, despite my shortcomings, he fought for me. He chose to live for 7 months, for me. He is my miracle and I have the rest of my life to prove to myself that I am worthy of being a mum to this brave little warrior.
This article written by Elgy Guerrero was first published on the theAsianparent Philippines and was edited and republished with permission.
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