Hysterical pregnancy, sometimes known as a false pregnancy or pseudocyesis, is a condition in which a person, usually a woman, believes that she or he is pregnant and experiences or demonstrates symptoms that are consistent with pregnancy. These symptoms might include the cessation of menstruation in a woman, abdominal swelling and nausea. Although these physical symptoms are real, many experts believe that hysterical pregnancy typically is psychosomatic, although some medical conditions might also mimic symptoms of pregnancy. A hysterical pregnancy is not the same as a faked pregnancy, in which a woman deliberately lies about pregnancy to gain sympathy or to manipulate others, because people who experience pseudocyesis genuinely believe that they are pregnant, in part because they experience symptoms that are consistent with pregnancy.
The phenomenon of hysterical pregnancy can be caused by several things, but in many cases, it might be the result of a woman's deep desire to have a child. Many of the symptoms of early pregnancy might also have other causes, but if a woman wants to have a child, she might assume that she is pregnant. If she does not see a doctor right away or undergo a pregnancy test, she might continue living under the assumption that she is pregnant and might even begin to demonstrate symptoms that are consistent with a more advanced pregnancy. For example, she might begin to gain weight in the abdominal region. Some doctors have reported that a woman who experiences a hysterical pregnancy might have an enlarged uterus or a softened cervix, both of which are typical symptoms of pregnancy.
In rare cases, men who are married to or partnered with pregnant women will begin to experience a form of hysterical pregnancy known as sympathetic pregnancy. Although these men are fully aware that they are not pregnant, they might experience abdominal swelling, nausea and tiredness alongside their wives or partners. After the child is born, these symptoms go away.
Doctors generally urge women who are experiencing pregnancy symptoms to undergo a pregnancy test and see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. If a woman is pregnant, she and her healthcare practitioner can work together to ensure that she has a healthy pregnancy and delivery. If she is not pregnant, she might be able to spare herself some stress for this appointment by confirming that she is not pregnant right away. A healthcare practitioner might also be able to determine the cause of her pregnancy symptoms and offer appropriate treatment, if necessary.