What Is a Cryptic Pregnancy and Why Does It Happen?


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A cryptic pregnancy is also known as a denial of the pregnancy. A woman may not know she is pregnant until she is ready to give birth to the baby. The HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels in the blood and the urine are too low to detect and the pregnancy goes unknown.


This is not as uncommon as it may sound. One in 250 pregnant women does not know they are with the child until they are in the 20th week or the 5th month. One in 2,500 women does not know that they have been pregnant until they go into labor and the baby is on the way.

This type of pregnancy occurs most often in women that have been on birth control such as the pill. Women that had tubal ligation may also experience a cryptic pregnancy. These women are the most unlikely to become pregnant. Some may have mild symptoms of pregnancy including fatigue or morning sickness. Other women will not have any symptoms.

Common Causes of Cryptic Pregnancy

  • A polycystic ovarian syndrome which is when a cyst is formed on the ovaries. The ovaries have become enlarged. They will lead to an imbalance in the hormones of the body.
  • Recent pregnancy. If a woman has just given birth it is going to take some time for the hormones in the body to return to their normal levels. If a woman becomes pregnant again right away the hormone levels may not be detected in her body.
  • Low body fat – many female athletes do not know they are pregnant due to the low levels of fat in their body. This can cause a hormonal imbalance.
  • Perimenopause – during this stage the body is showing signs of entering menopause. A woman may have symptoms in her 30s and may not know she has become pregnant.
  • Birth control – certain birth control pills such as Norplant, Mirena coil, and Deprovera can have an effect on the pregnancy hormones making them very hard to detect.
  • High stress – high-stress levels in the body can change the hormones including the pregnancy hormone.

Signs of Cryptic Pregnancy

Cryptic Pregnancy

There are some symptoms that a woman should know about cryptic pregnancy. These are some common symptoms and will vary from woman to woman. Some common symptoms include:

  • A feeling of fatigue
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Food avoidance or sickness
  • Increase in urination
  • Heartburn
  • Gaining weight
  • Headaches
  • Cramping in the abdomen
  • Aching back
  • Metallic taste in the mouth

What Makes a Cryptic Pregnancy Different From Other Pregnancies?

This pregnancy goes unnoticed due to the following reasons:

  • Negative urine and blood test results
  • Regular periods – you can still get regular periods but may bleed for fewer days. You may have early signs of labor that feel like menstrual cramps
  • The baby grows in the back of the womb so there is little weight gain

The Fetus Development in Cryptic Pregnancy

The fetus develops an at a slower rate. This does not mean that the fetus is unhealthy. The mother will only be in the hospital with pains when she is ready to give birth.

Periods While Having a Cryptic Pregnancy

With this type of pregnancy, most women will continue to get their period. This does not mean they are at risk for a miscarriage. The bleeding can be light and can even be reduced to spot. The blood can be many different colors. The periods can be normal or they may become irregular. The bleeding may last for several weeks or even months. The uterine lining will still be intact.

Negative Pregnancy Tests Results During a Cryptic Pregnancy

During a regular pregnancy, a woman may get negative test results if she takes the test too soon or if she does not take the test as directed. A cryptic pregnancy is different. The results are negative due to the very low levels of the hCG hormone.


This hormone softens in the lining of the womb. In a pregnant woman, it increases and shows up in both blood and urine tests. During the cryptic pregnancy, the lining of the uterus is shed at irregular times and the levels of hCG are not high enough to give a positive test result.

Can an Ultrasound Detect Cryptic Pregnancy?

In normal pregnancies, a transvaginal ultrasound is done at the 12th week. Abdominal ultrasounds will also be conducted throughout the pregnancy. In most cryptic pregnancy cases, the ultrasound does not see the fetus. This can be due to irregularities in the uterus.

Why is the Gestation Period Longer in Cryptic Pregnancies?

This period lasts for a longer period of time since hCG will not pass to the system right away. This will prevent signs that a fetus is growing and the fetus grows at a slower pace. The babies will be smaller throughout the pregnancy. Regular periods will also cause this time to last longer. The heavier the bleeding is the longer the gestation period will be.

Possible Complications due to a Cryptic Pregnancy

Since a woman does not know she is pregnant she will not get prenatal care. She may end up having the baby at home. Other complications include diabetes, hypertension, and blood groups mismatching. This can put both the mother and the fetus at risk. The mother may also drink and smoke since she does not know she is pregnant.

Cryptic Pregnancy Labor

The labor is also different with this pregnancy. Labors pains may be around for months before the full labor happens. The pains may feel like cramps but will get worse over time. They can last for months. The doctor may then induce labor or decide to perform a C section. Some of the labor symptoms include:

  • Pains in the back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • A feeling of dizziness
  • Cold sweats in addition to chills
  • Achy body
  • Pain in the legs from thighs to ankles
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in mood
  • Pains in the pelvic area and the hips
  • Palpitations
  • Swelling of the vagina
  • Vaginal pain
  • Sharp pains in the breasts
  • Problems with vision
  • Painful or pressure on the cervix
  • Pains in the sides
  • Tugging feeling of the abdomen

All births are different and the pains may not last too long.

Ways to Prevent a Cryptic Pregnancy

Women that have pain in their abdomen should visit a doctor right away. While they may not be able to detect pregnancy right away, the doctor may use all the symptoms to detect it. If the periods are not regular, keep taking pregnancy tests. You should also get checked out by a gynecologist.


This article is for informational/educational purposes only. Healthtian does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, read more.


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