We’ve all had that one night where we lie on the couch and marathon TLC’s I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant with a feeling of pure shock and horror. How could you not know you’re pregnant?
But after turning off the TV and heading to bed, you reassure yourself saying that of course you’d know if you were pregnant, how does one miss a baby growing inside of them?
Answer is, more often than you think.
Multiple stories have made the news this year about women who gave birth unexpectedly. This past Mother’s Day, 23-year-old Ada Guan gave birth to her daughter on a flight from Calgary to Tokyo. Despite taking a pregnancy test and consulting a doctor, Guan and her boyfriend Wesley Branch had no idea they were expecting.
In spite of all the stories in the news, the chance of having a cryptic pregnancy (not knowing you’re pregnant until shortly before or during labour) is 1 in 2,500. Similarly, 1 in 450 women don’t realize they’re pregnant until 20 weeks in.
Doctors are unsure as to how or why cryptic pregnancies occur, but some believe that a woman can be pregnant and not know it by either denying it psychologically or physically.
Some women will attribute pregnancy symptoms like nausea or skipped periods to other factors, like a bad meal or an irregular cycle. This could be because they simply don’t want to believe they are pregnant or are unaware of what the symptoms mean.
Others don’t experience symptoms at all. In January of this year, Katherine Kropas gave birth to her daughter at a Massachusetts hospital, an hour after learning she was pregnant. Kropas was on birth control and had regular periods and attributed her weight gain to typical holiday gain.
Hormones could also play a factor in not knowing you’re pregnant. Pregnancy tests look for the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is produced by fetuses. However if the fetus has birth defects or abnormalities or if the mother is under stress, HCG production drops, meaning a pregnancy test could result in a negative.
And just because it happened once, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. In March, Kirsty Parker gave birth to her daughter Ruby in the bathroom. Nine months earlier, daughter Amber was also born in the bathroom. The 25-year-old from Devon, England, had no idea she was pregnant either times. Aside from slight weight gain, there were no symptoms.
Cryptic pregnancies are obviously more dangerous, because women who don’t know they’re expecting may smoke or drink during their pregnancy, which could harm the baby.
So think twice before brushing off your queasy stomach and intense craving for weird food combinations. TLC knows more than we think.