Doctors Study Women Who Didn’t Know They Were Pregnant

Pregnancy as most mothers would know comes with its own signs and symptoms like the missed periods, morning sickness, aches and the most obvious a protruding belly. But in spite of all these indications many women, it seems, are caught unaware of the stork’s visit according to a recent survey done in Germany and Ireland.

The study has revealed that one in 600 women do not know they are carrying a baby until very late or when they are actually in labor. What is more astounding is, this not only includes first time mothers but also those who have had 3 or 4 children earlier.

It may also happen to women in their 40s expecting menopause as experienced by novelist Maggie Alderson. She says,

“I had given up any hope of getting pregnant, and at 42 after missing two periods I assumed I was having the menopause. I’m afraid I was pretty ignorant: I just thought your periods stopped and that was that.”

She now has a daughter aged 7.

According to Patrick O’Brien, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

“Married women with children are the most perplexing of the cases which present late or in labour. There are drug addicts who have chaotic lives and often irregular periods and women with a history of infertility who assume they can’t get pregnant. But most common are young girls who actually just don’t realise they are pregnant.”

Women who are starting a new job, concentrating on their career or have partners who are not planning to have a family are especially the ones who are surprised with pregnancy news.

Some earlier studies have related this ignorance with terms like ‘denial’ and ‘concealment’ where women do know they are expecting but choose to not acknowledge it. But this might not necessarily be the case according to Sue Macdonald, of the Royal College of Midwives.

“An unplanned pregnancy can cause extreme anxiety and anxiety produces a closed mind which refuses to recognise symptoms. But there may be another explanation: some bleeding in pregnancy which women think is a period or they might be carrying a bit of weight, or have very tight tummy muscles so the bump is not apparent.”

She also provides certain explanations for how a mother fails to recognise the movements of the baby inside her womb. It might be confused with irritable bowel syndrome or the baby may not be moving much to alert the mother.

Whether it is denial or complete ignorance, the real cause for distress is the way these women plunge into motherhood without a transformation passage of antenatal care, preparation of the baby’s arrival etc. It is also a hard information to assimilate for the immediate family, and the partner.

When the arrival of a baby is a shock rather than the good news you had been preparing for, for nine months, it is certainly a cause for concern. – Atula, Staff Writer

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About the author


Atula is a writer, traveler and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called

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