A cryptic pregnancy means the woman doesn't realise she's pregnant until the later stages or even until she goes into labour.

It's also known as a hidden pregnancy and if you're reading wondering how is this even possible, read on!

Many women discover they’re pregnant after their first missed period, around 4 weeks pregnant, or when they experience some pregnancy symptoms like tender breasts and morning sickness, which usually starts at around 4 to 9 weeks.

But it’s important to remember that every pregnancy is unique.

What is a cryptic pregnancy?


It's possible to be pregnant and have no pregnancy symptoms, and to get a negative pregnancy test result.

And while cryptic pregnancies aren't that common, they do happen.

Anyone can have a cryptic pregnancy, but you may be at higher risk if you:

  • Recently gave birth: After you give birth, it may take several months for your period to return, and you may not ovulate if you’re breastfeeding.
  • Have a condition like PCOS: Women with PCOS have irregular periods so they may not realize they’re pregnant if they miss their period.
  • Use birth control: Women who use birth control may mistakenly believe there's no chance they can get pregnant.
  • Are in perimenopause: Women in perimenopause may think they’re too old to get pregnant, or mistake pregnancy symptoms for menopause symptoms.
  • Have never been pregnant: If you’ve never been pregnant before, you’re less likely to know what being pregnant feels like. This means a pregnancy could go unnoticed for longer.

What are the signs of a cryptic pregnancy?

Women with a cryptic pregnancy have the same symptoms as a normal pregnancy, but the key difference is they doesn’t realise pregnancy is causing their symptoms.


For example, they may think they’re nauseous from eating a certain food or that they’re tired because they need to sleep more.

Other symptoms include:

  • Missed period: While most people know they’re pregnant because they don’t get their period, this isn’t always the case. If your periods are always irregular, you won't automatically think you're pregnant because you've missed one.
  • Spotting or light bleeding: Some women experience light spotting in early pregnancy and mistake it for a period.
  • False negative pregnancy test: This means you're pregnant, but your test says you aren't.
  • Weight gain: You might notice weight gain but put it down to eating too much or even to bloating.
  • Fetal movement: Most women don’t feel the baby move until halfway through pregnancy. And if you have an anterior placenta, it's difficult to feel any kicks.

Diagnosis and treatment

A cryptic pregnancy can be confirmed by an ultrasound, blood test, or urine test.

Treatment depends on when you realize you’re pregnant. If you’re still months away from delivery, your ob-gyn will try to catch you up on the prenatal care you’ve missed.

This could include:

  • Blood and urine tests.
  • Ultrasound.
  • A physical exam.
  • Nutritional and lifestyle counseling.

Complications of a cryptic pregnancy stem from not knowing you’re pregnant, and include:

  • No pregnancy care: Since you don’t know you’re pregnant, you haven’t been seeing a provider for your prenatal care.
  • Lifestyle adjustments: If you haven't realised you're pregnant, you won't have made necessary adjustments like cutting out cigarettes and alcohol, cutting down on caffeine, and eliminating certain foods and medications or supplements.
  • Higher risk of medical conditions: You won’t receive the care or tests necessary to diagnose certain conditions like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.
  • Higher risk of congenital conditions: The fetus is at risk for congenital conditions because you didn’t receive genetic tests or other evaluations that help diagnose birth disorders.

Studies have also shown that babies born from cryptic pregnancy are more likely to be born premature.

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