Hold up. You can be pregnant with no symptoms?
Yup. It’s called a cryptic pregnancy, and it’s more common than you might think.
In this article: 📝
- Can you be pregnant and not know it?
- What is a cryptic pregnancy?
- How does a cryptic pregnancy happen?
- Hidden pregnancy signs and symptoms
- Are cryptic pregnancy babies healthy?
- Is there a difference between a cryptic pregnancy and a denied pregnancy?
- What are the complications of a cryptic pregnancy?
- Hidden pregnancy signs to watch out for
- How to confirm you’re having a cryptic pregnancy
Can you be pregnant and not know it?
Cryptic pregnancy, or stealth pregnancy, is a pregnancy that goes undetected, leaving would-be mamas unaware that they have a little peanut on the way until much later into their pregnancy – yep, even until labor begins!
While it sounds hard to believe, hidden pregnancy can happen, and critically, for those unsuspecting mamas-to-be, hidden pregnancy signs also mean missing out on the excitement of expecting and essential prenatal care.
Thankfully with TV shows like I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant and the many women sharing their cryptic pregnancy stories, awareness of cryptic pregnancy is becoming more widespread – and better yet, understood.
Read on to discover the hidden pregnancy signs, common causes, and useful tips to help you get the best care should you suspect you are expecting.
What is a cryptic pregnancy?
A cryptic pregnancy is any hidden pregnancy that goes undetected for 20 weeks (5 months) or more.
How rare is a cryptic pregnancy?
Well, the most recent statistics suggest that 1 in 475 pregnancies will go undiscovered, meaning that the woman isn’t aware that she is pregnant and a family member or doctor hasn’t spotted the pregnancy.
Some mamas don’t know they’re pregnant until even as far as 30 weeks, 35 weeks, or 40 weeks ‒ essentially a pregnancy with no symptoms.
How long can a pregnancy be hidden?
Although rare, a full-term cryptic pregnancy where the woman doesn’t know she’s expecting until labor isn’t totally unheard of – happening in around 1 in 2,500 pregnancies.
How does a cryptic pregnancy happen?
While a cryptic pregnancy can happen to anyone, it is more common in people with hormonal imbalances, whether due to medication, birth control, or perimenopause.
Women with irregular periods may also be unaware of a cryptic pregnancy, especially if they’re used to skipping or missing periods frequently.
As one mom from the Peanut community noted, “I didn’t find out I was pregnant until six months. I gained almost no weight, and because of PCOS, it’s not unusual for me to go months without a period.”
If you have a condition or medication that regularly interferes with your hormones, these symptoms are more likely to disguise hidden pregnancy signs.
For example, if you use hormonal birth control, such as the pill or an IUD, you might be used to not having periods.
Equally, if you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), you may not expect to become pregnant, and your periods might be irregular or utterly lacking.
Women over 45 years old may explain away cryptic pregnancy symptoms (like weight gain or mood swings) as signs of menopause.
Even the shape of your body can play a role in concealing your baby bump.
A cryptic pregnancy really can happen to anyone.
Hidden pregnancy signs and symptoms
Essentially, the “symptom” of a cryptic pregnancy is the lack of symptoms!
Early signs of a cryptic or stealth pregnancy that would often indicate that you’re pregnant may not be there, or you might misinterpret them if they appear.
A few things that might throw you off the scent are:
- A negative pregnancy test result: Yep, it’s possible to get a false negative pregnancy test when you are pregnant, but there are ways to reduce this risk (more on that later).
- Monthly bleeding: With a typical pregnancy, you’ll no longer get your monthly period. However, in a cryptic pregnancy, it is common to experience some light bleeding (or “spotting”) while pregnant and mistake this for a period – particularly if pregnancy isn’t on your radar.
- Lack of pregnancy symptoms: You may not get any of the usual early pregnancy symptoms: nausea, tender breasts, tiredness. Or you may assume another cause. For example, cryptic pregnancy nausea could be linked to a stomach upset and fatigue to work stress.
- Cryptic pregnancy belly: That’s right, a cryptic pregnancy can even disguise the ultimate pregnancy sign: the baby bump. A “skinny” cryptic pregnancy has been known to happen, although usually, at around 12-16 weeks, you may start to notice your baby bump.
Do you still get periods with cryptic pregnancy?
You might have seen on I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant that a period every month can happen through a cryptic pregnancy.
Is it possible to have a period while pregnant?
Well, technically, no.
According to Dr. Kiarra King, “If someone is pregnant, they aren’t having a period. They are having first, second, or third trimester bleeding and could be due to a threatened miscarriage, placental abruption, or a cervical infection.”.
So while you may be experiencing bleeding during pregnancy, it’s not actually a period.
Dr. King explains, “Periods do not happen with pregnancy. Periods happen due to ovulation. Ovulation doesn’t occur with pregnancy.”.
Can you feel kicks with a cryptic pregnancy?
Yes, with a cryptic pregnancy, baby’s position and kicks (quickening) might be felt.
If felt later in the cryptic pregnancy, you might explain away this baby movement as cramps or muscle twinges.
Does your stomach grow during cryptic pregnancy?
A stealth pregnancy definitely lives up to its name. One clear hidden pregnancy sign is the noticeable lack of that tell-tale bump.
A baby bump may not be noticeable for many reasons. For example, if you are super athletic, the tight muscles in your abdomen can stop your baby bump from becoming prominent.
Or, if you fall pregnant soon after giving birth, your cryptic pregnancy could go unnoticed as you’ve still got a little bit of a bump from your recent little one.
Everything from how the fetus is positioned in the womb to its growth rate can affect how prominent your baby bump will be.
Are cryptic pregnancy babies healthy?
It can be tough to come to terms with, but there’s no guarantee that a cryptic pregnancy will result in a healthy baby.
However, a cryptic pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean that baby won’t be healthy, either.
Every pregnancy, even a hidden pregnancy, is unique, with different bodies, circumstances, and lifestyles playing their part.
In general, however, cryptic pregnancy statistics tend to point to stealth pregnancy babies measuring on the smaller side.
Is there a difference between a cryptic pregnancy and a denied pregnancy?
Sometimes a cryptic pregnancy isn’t hidden because the woman hasn’t noticed she’s pregnant but because she doesn’t want to accept the situation.
In these cases, it’s more common to refer to a cryptic pregnancy or a hidden pregnancy as a “denied pregnancy.”
A denied pregnancy can be triggered or caused by:
- Mental health: You may be unable to acknowledge your pregnancy in your mind, even if you are aware of the physical symptoms. Or it could be that you feel mentally and emotionally unprepared for a baby, so you push it to the back of your mind and try to forget about it.
- Life challenges: Certain challenging situations might motivate you to hide your pregnancy. For example, if you are in an abusive relationship, you may fear your family’s reaction to your pregnancy, or if you’re young, you may not be equipped to handle being pregnant.
If you are in a situation like this, it’s important to seek support and get the care you need during your pregnancy.
Talking to your doctor would be a great first step.
Exploring the helpful resources available to you is another.
What are the complications of a cryptic pregnancy?
The main complication with a cryptic pregnancy is that you may miss out on some or all of the usual prenatal care, which could impact the length of your pregnancy or the health of you and your baby.
Researchers in Hungary, for example, found that a lack of prenatal care increased the chance of going into labor early with a cryptic pregnancy.
With a full-term cryptic pregnancy, there is also the added risk of giving birth on your own or in an unsuitable place and therefore not receiving the essential care and medical attention you need during childbirth.
Not to mention a hidden pregnancy can be pretty traumatic for any unprepared new parent, with the lack of time for planning or preparations taking a significant toll on their mental and physical well-being.
The good news is a “stealth baby,” such as the little boy in this study can be born perfectly happy and healthy.
However, it’s still important to pick up on those cryptic pregnancy clues early, so you can get the best medical advice and plan the birth experience you want.
Hidden pregnancy signs to watch out for
Detecting hidden pregnancy signs even a little before the birth will still give you time to plan and get in some extra health checks. Weird hidden pregnancy signs you may not expect include:
- Stuffy nose or increase in colds and flu: Pregnancy lowers immunity, but it also causes more blood to flow to your mucus membranes resulting in pregnancy rhinitis and flu-like symptoms. If you have allergy symptoms that won’t quit, it may be worth taking another pregnancy test.
- Mood swings: Experiencing intense emotional ups and downs is part of the parcel of being pregnant, and a cryptic pregnancy is no different – blame those changing hormones.
- Aches, pains, and heartburn: These very same hormonal changes can often be the culprit behind pregnancy headaches, back pain, and period-like cramps. An unexplained increase in heartburncan also be a telling sign as pregnancy hormones cause the muscle between your stomach and esophagus to relax.
- Unexpected weight gain: Healthy weight gain is normal in pregnancy – all the better to help baby grow. Much of it comes down to a growing placenta, uterus, and breasts, so if you find you’re feeling heavier than normal with no changes in lifestyle, a cryptic pregnancy may just be the cause.
How to confirm you’re having a cryptic pregnancy
Finding out that you’re pregnant early on is ideal, so you can get prenatal care lined up and make any beneficial lifestyle changes during pregnancy – think getting in the proper nutrients in your diet and cutting down on the caffeine (chamomile tea anyone?).
Here are useful steps you can take if you suspect you might be expecting and are after proof of cryptic pregnancy:
- Take a home pregnancy test: You can avoid overlooking a pregnancy early on by buying a good-quality home pregnancy test and following the instructions carefully. If you get a negative result and you need more convincing, try another. It’s also worth taking a pregnancy test with your first pee of the day when your hCG levels will be at their highest.
- Consult your doctor: Your doctor can use different methods to detect your cryptic pregnancy, including a blood test and a pelvic exam. You may also be offered an ultrasound scan to try and identify how far along you are in your pregnancy.
- Know your body: Yes, it might just be gas, stress, or a couple of extra pounds – but if there’s any chance you could have a stealth pregnancy, don’t just dismiss the signs. Taking a test could put your mind at ease and make the transition to parenthood even easier.
- Seek support: Pregnancy and the prospect of a new life to care for can be a challenge – particularly with a hidden pregnancy or other difficulties you may be facing in your life right now. All the more reason to look after yourself and get the support you need.
To all you surprise mamas out there, we’ve got you.
Keen to find out more about cryptic pregnancies or hear other mamas’ cryptic pregnancy stories?
Join the growing mom community on Peanut ‒ you’re not alone.