When women do not notice their pregnancyCan it be that a woman does not notice her pregnancy? Affected women trigger incredulous reactions in society. But the so-called "gravitas suppressalis" is more common than thought.
B efore the birth of a child, women who do not know they are pregnant always cause a stir in the public eye. The "gravitas suppressalis", the suppressed pregnancy, is more common than thought, says the Berlin gynecologist and psychotherapist Peter Rott. One in 500 pregnant women is unaware of her other circumstance, she says.
In Germany, there are about 1300 repressed pregnancies per year, explains Rott. In 270 of them, it is even detected at birth, says the gynecologist, who has been studying repressed pregnancies for more than 20 years. During his more than 25 years in gynecology, he himself has experienced about 30 such cases.
"We speak of a repressed pregnancy when the woman does not realize it until the 20. When a woman doesn't notice she's a week pregnant," explains Rott. As a rule, pregnancy lasts 40 weeks – so women are not aware that they are expecting a child for at least half of that time.
Inner conflict is warded off
A pregnancy in fast motion
In real life, nine months of pregnancy drag on like chewing gum. Songwriter Tom Fletcher summed it up in a very entertaining time-lapse video. Including a self-composed song. In addition, a distinction is made between repressed. Denied pregnancies separately. "The difference lies in the perception of the woman." While in a repressed pregnancy, according to Rott, the feelings take place completely in the subconscious, in the denied form, the woman is actually aware that she is expecting a child. "But she pushes it away."
Neither the repression nor the denial happens consciously. "We approach painful events only successively or not at all," explains the psychotherapist. A defense against an inner conflict is quite natural. "We all know the."
For example, when a long outstanding bill needs to be paid. If the conflict is so great that a person can no longer bear it, he pushes it into the subconscious. In the case of pregnant women, he says, the inner conflict usually arises from a life situation where no child fits at the moment.
When the realization comes with labor
The most comprehensive study to date in Germany on unaware pregnancies was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2002 by German physicians Jens Wessel and Ulrich Buscher of Berlin's Humboldt University.For one year – from July 1995 to June 1996 – they studied 62 cases in Berlin of women who had been pregnant at least until they were 20 years old. Week did not know anything about their pregnancy.
In 25 of them, the pregnancy was only detected when labor had already begun. The authors write that the view that repressed pregnancies are rare is not true.
In addition to the Berlin study, there are also studies from Innsbruck, Austria, or the U.S. state of Ohio, says gynecologist Rott. The results were very similar. No differences were found in the Western countries studied.
The phenomenon is known in all strata
How the little one develops in the womb
Yet there is no prototype of a woman who does not notice her pregnancy. "There's nothing in the studies to suggest a significant risk group," Rott explains.
Suppressed pregnancies exist in all strata and age groups. A stronger tendency was only found in very young women and women at an age when they no longer expected to become pregnant, he said. "But that doesn't stand out statistically," says Rott.
Even that the pregnancy is the result of a one-night stand is not true in many cases: "80 percent of women are in a steady partner relationship." And about half of the women had even been pregnant once or several times before that.
Women smoke or drink alcohol
A round belly, nausea and absence of periods – how can women not realize they are pregnant? "You can reinterpret everything," says Rott. Movements of the child are perceived as stomach grumbling, weight gain is attributed to poor nutrition.
Women with already irregular bleeding did not worry about missing menstruation. "We all talk ourselves into things," says Rott.
In addition, the unborn children often remain smaller than average because the women do not behave in a way that conforms to pregnancy standards. "They often exercise, smoke or drink alcohol," the gynecologist explains.
Renal colic turned out to be labor pains
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The typical silhouette with a pot belly can also be hidden: slim women unconsciously pull in their bellies. With women with anyway a few kilos more on the ribs the difference is less noticeable.
Susanne Ditz, a gynecologist and psychoanalyst from Heidelberg, also had to deal with such a case: An 18-year-old girl was brought to the hospital with suspected renal colic – a few hours later she was a mother. The severe back pain that is common with renal colic was actually labor pains, Ditz reports.
Because her weight had already fluctuated several times, the young woman had not thought about gaining weight. "The birth then went completely smoothly," says Ditz, who is active in the German Society for Psychosomatic Gynecology and Obstetrics (DGPFG).
Doctors recommend psychotherapy in many cases
The 18-year-old had also noticed that her belly was getting hard. "But she interpreted it as intestinal problems, which she had already been dealing with before that." She also attributed the mild nausea to stomach problems.
The most curious thing about the story, the doctor reports, was that the woman was training to be a physician's assistant and no one there noticed anything either. The young woman's family immediately welcomed the newborn, he said, and the relationship with the father also lasted. Later a second child was added. "This was a good case," Ditz says. Psychotherapy was not necessary.
In the majority of cases, however, this is absolutely necessary after the experience. To give the right support, the doctor would have to differentiate how the patient is doing. There is no patent remedy. "In addition to very young mothers in particular, there are also drug-addicted women, for example, who have more problems from the outset," explains Ditz.
Make it clear to the women that they are not an isolated case
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In addition to the psychological burden of an unprepared birth, the entire organization for everyday life with child is also missing. That's why a social worker is usually called in after the birth for support.
"The essential problem for women is a lack of information." What forms do I need to fill out? And how to take care of an infant anyway? In addition to answering the questions, the gynecologist believes that one thing must not be forgotten: "The women must be treated with empathy and it must be clearly shown that they are not an isolated case and that they are not crazy."
But in patients with psychological problems, diagnostic discussions are advisable, he says. Also to prevent damage. The risk is that the woman will harm herself or the child after repressed pregnancies, she says.
Infanticide and repressed pregnancies
Gynecologist Rott explains that there are about 30 cases of infanticide per year in Germany. Behind this, suppressed pregnancies were common. "This is especially true for women who also give birth in secret," Ditz says. Women with severe depression or schizophrenia would also need psychiatric guidance in addition to the support of a midwife or social workers.
Women who have not been aware of their pregnancies, however, are not worse mothers, according to doctors. "The bond between mother and child is often different, though," Ditz says. Some showed less sensitivity. Seemed more awkward in contact with children. During conscious pregnancy, women can adjust to the child. Slowly accept the changes in their life situation. "These processes are then absent in women."
How long care for mothers lasts after birth must be determined individually, he says. Every woman needs different lengths of time to really become a mother.
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