What is a cryptic pregnancy?

Have you heard of a cryptic pregnancy but you’re not exactly sure what one is? Other names for a cryptic pregnancy are stealth, unknown, undetected, denied, or hidden pregnancy. Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is a cryptic pregnancy?

A pregnancy is considered a cryptic pregnancy when a woman doesn’t know she’s pregnant until halfway through the pregnancy. In other words, if she doesn’t know until after 20 weeks (and in some rare cases women don’t know until they’re in labour), she’s experiencing a cryptic pregnancy.

In Australia it’s estimated that about 1 in 475 women don’t discover that they’re pregnant until after 20 weeks.

How can a woman not know she’s pregnant for that long?

The number one reason a pregnancy can go on undetected for some women is that she still has a monthly period or irregular bleeding.

Women experiencing a cryptic pregnancy may have the usual pregnancy symptoms including nausea, sickness, heartburn, weight gain, lack of period, larger breasts, and even feeling the baby move, but this is less common.

Aside from the period-like signs and a lack of pregnancy symptoms, what causes a woman to not know she’s pregnant varies between individuals, but it could be due to:

  • Not feeling the baby move due to the position of the placenta.
  • Obesity, which hides the weight gain.
  • PCOS in which women don’t get regular periods so missed periods are normal.
  • Psychological problems.
  • Position of the baby or mother’s long torso, making it less externally obvious.
  • Recent birth of another baby.
  • High levels of stress meaning her attention is focused elsewhere.
  • Denial. If she doesn’t want to be pregnant, she will assume the symptoms are due to other things.

How to confirm a cryptic pregnancy?

Pregnancy can be missed on an ultrasound if it’s too early, and a pregnancy test can give a negative result even at advanced stages of a pregnancy, so if you suspect you’re pregnant (even without any symptoms), make an appointment with your doctor.

Your healthcare provider will investigate and determine if you’re pregnant or not. Because denial is one of the leading causes of cryptic pregnancies, the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to get good prenatal care, including the support from a counsellor who is experienced in this type of pregnancy.

Phone the PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) National Helpline for support and advice on 1300 726 306