As much as I hate being on my period, I do love getting that monthly confirmation that I'm not pregnant. The thought of experiencing an unplanned pregnancy right now scares the heck out of me. Pregnancy isn't easy on the body, and then at the end of it, there's this tiny, vulnerable little human that you're entirely responsible for feeding, clothing, educating, loving, and raising in such a way that they don't grow up to be an assh*le.
But guess what? Sometimes, women spot during pregnancy and mistake it for their period. Oh, and having a pregnancy test come back negative doesn't necessarily mean you aren't pregnant, either. Believe it or not, these are just two of the many reasons why some women don't know they're pregnant until they're several months into their pregnancies. They're called "cryptic pregnancies," and they're more common than you think.
According to Jena Pincott's Huffington Post article on cryptic pregnancies, one in 450 pregnant women don't even know they're pregnant until they're 20 weeks along. If you think that's scary, though, you should know that one in 2,500 women don't know they're pregnant until they're in labor. In labor, you guys. All too often, these women are ridiculed, or made into a bizarre reality show — but the truth is, this could totally happen to many of us.
Still skeptical? There are a lot of ways women can be pregnant without knowing it. Here are five reasons women might not know they're pregnant until they're over halfway through their pregnancies.
1. Their Periods Aren't Regular To Begin With, So Going Months Without Having One Doesn't Seem Like A Big Deal
About 30 percent of American women have irregular periods. If you're one of them, then you already know that going a month or two without a period doesn't equate to a pregnancy scare when you're used to only menstruating once every few months. When you combine this condition with a lack of other pregnancy symptoms, it's really not surprising at all that some women don't know they're pregnant until 20 weeks in, or even further.
2. They Mistake Spotting During Pregnancy For Light Periods
While it's technically not possible to menstruate during pregnancy, many women do experience spotting during their pregnancies and end up mistaking it for their period. Additionally, women who conceive super close to the time they would normally be getting their periods often have what is called "breakthrough bleeding," because their bodies haven't fully adjusted to being pregnant yet. If you often have spotting or light periods, you might just think everything is normal.
3. They've Been Diagnosed With PCOS & Believe They're Infertile
Women who suffer from Polycystic Ovary Disorder (PCOS) produce an excess of androgens, (sometimes referred to as "male hormones"), causing an infrequent or sometimes total lack of ovulation. Naturally, since PCOS messes with ovulation, it causes infrequent and irregular periods, too — and often, problems with fertility. A woman with PCOS may have been told that it will be difficult for her to get pregnant, so she might believe she's infertile when she is actually far from it.
On top of all that, PCOS can cause some bloating, weight gain, acne, and pelvic pain, so some of the most common pregnancy symptoms could simply be mistaken for symptoms of PCOS. It wouldn't be hard at all for a woman suffering from PCOS to go months without realizing she's pregnant.
4. They Don't Gain Weight Or Show Any Other Signs Of Pregnancy
Some women don't know they're pregnant for months, simply because they don't exhibit any signs of pregnancy. Usually when this happens it's because the fetus is putting out a very low dose of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). The hormone hCG is essentially how the fetus communicates its needs, so if the fetus isn't emitting much of it, the mother probably won't feel much hungrier or more sick to her stomach than she normally would. Unfortunately, this is also why most babies born from cryptic pregnancies are underweight.
5. The Fetus Is Putting Out Such A Low Dose Of HCG That A Pregnancy Test Can't Detect It
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is also what allows over-the-counter pregnancy tests to determine whether a woman is pregnant or not. So if a fetus is putting out a super low dose of the stuff, an at-home pregnancy test will read negative, no matter how far along a woman is in her pregnancy.
Blood tests can detect even abnormally low levels of hCG, but if a woman gets a negative result on her urine test, and shows no other signs of pregnancy, she's probably not going to want to go get blood work done. I know I wouldn't.
The Bottom Line
You shouldn't judge women who don't know they're pregnant until late into their pregnancies — it doesn't necessarily mean they don't know their own bodies, or are otherwise "clueless". And if you're worried you might be one of these women, it can't hurt to go to the doctor and give yourself some peace of mind.
Want more women's health coverage? Check out Bustle's new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you're afraid to ask.
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