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Didn't Know You Were Pregnant?

Katlyn Joy |22, July 2013


For women who plan their pregnancies, the scenario is unbelievable. How can a woman go through all the changes of pregnancy and not have an inkling a baby is on the way?

It happens, not commonly, but often enough to allow a whole television series on the subject. The Discovery Channel's "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant", features such stories. However, most women who watch still shake their heads in wonderment. It seems out of the realm of possibility to be caught unaware of a full term pregnancy.

Just last month, a 33-year-old mother of two was experiencing back pain and thought she might have pulled a muscle while training for a marathon. When the pain didn't subside, she decided it was time to go to the hospital. Soon after she was shocked to learn she was not only pregnant but about to deliver a baby. Her daughter, Mira, weighed in at 6 pounds 6 ounces, and is estimated to have arrived about 5 weeks early.

The mother, Trish Stain, said she never even considered a possibility of pregnancy. She had gained no weight and didn't feel any fetal movement. Even more reason is that her husband had a vasectomy and the couple was certain their family was complete.

Doctors say this type of surprise birth is pretty rare, but how rare is tough to pin down. One statistic puts it at 1 in 2700 births. But the real question is how can a woman not know she is pregnant for that length of time.

Denied pregnancy.
Some women are not wanting to be pregnant and so deny the pregnancy psychologically. Teens are particularly prone to this type of surprise birth, as are older women who thought they were finished with childbearing.

False negative pregnancy test.
While pregnancy tests are usually quite accurate, there is room for error. If a woman takes an outdated test, tests too early in pregnancy or possibly has a condition or takes certain medications the test may say not pregnant even though the woman actually is. If you take a pregnancy test and get a negative result but your period still doesn't show up and you have any symptoms, go see a doctor and get a blood test to make sure you aren't expecting.

Confusing pregnancy symptoms for other health issues.
For some women, they may think they are having gas pains when it's actually the baby moving. Others may think they have a stomach virus when it's actually morning sickness. Weight gain may be blamed on overeating, which of course definitely can happen with an increased appetite in mid-pregnancy especially.

Weight gain.
Some women don't gain a lot of pounds while pregnant, and women who begin pregnancy especially overweight may not gain any and won't notice an enlarged abdomen. Some women gain weight a bit all over instead of looking like they are sporting a basketball under their shirt.

Irregular periods.
This is a big factor in undetected pregnancies. Lots of women surprised by childbirth didn't have a regular period so didn't have that big sign to warn them. Women may not menstruate if they are obese, very physically active or have certain illnesses. Some women may even spot throughout their pregnancies, making them believe they can't be pregnant because they mistakenly believe they've been having light periods all along.

Stressed to distraction.
When you are in a stressful time of life, you often experience related symptoms like sleeplessness, digestive issues, weight gain, or fatigue. You may be so distracted you just never connect the dots that lead to a conclusion of a baby in progress.

Faithful use of contraceptives.
While many contraceptives have a high success rate, sometimes even when used properly and faithfully a baby gets made. People who have undergone sterilization procedures are especially confident. Most cases, sterilization is a definite end to baby-making, but things can happen and babies do pop up unexpectedly. If you had your tubes tied, you would be unlikely to link your weight gain to pregnancy but more so to your dusty treadmill or candy bar stash.

Risks of an Undiagnosed Pregnancy

Not getting proper prenatal care is a huge risk for these pregnancies. You never get tested for infections, you didn't take prenatal vitamins, and you didn't get a sonogram to check baby's development. You also won't know to stop smoking or drinking, and you may be working out in less than safe ways.

Sometimes not knowing can lead to dangerous outcomes. One mother gave birth unconscious because her husband found her having a seizure. Once at the hospital it was discovered she had suffered from toxemia, and her elevated blood pressure had led to a seizure. She awoke to find out she had given birth to a healthy baby girl.

So while you might find it hard to believe, it is possible to find out you're having a baby while in birth!

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.
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