Q: Hey Doctor, I hope you are fine. I went to visit my hubby in November, then we had unprotected sex for 2 months. In February, I started to feel something funny about my body. When I get up, my pressure goes up and I have back pain. I thought it was nothing. In my tummy I could feel something beating fast. In March, I started vomiting whenever I ate chicken. In addition, I have green lines on my chest and my hands. My boobs got big and hurt. My periods didn’t stop but only going for 3 days now – weak blood. Now I am ugly. I have pimples and my tummy is too big. Yesterday, I went to a doctor. He touched my tummy and he said he can ‘hear’ the baby’s head but the time he touched it, it hurt. So, he sent me to scan and there was nothing. The person who did the scan did not see anything. He told me that I could not be pregnant if I was having periods. I just left. I was confused. What’s the problem because I can hear the movements and the kicks. Please help me. What’s happening to me?
A: Hi dear, thanks for writing in.
There are usually 5 Fs that can cause a swollen tummy. They include fat, faeces, flatus, fetus and fluids. If an ultrasound has been done to confirm the presence of a fetus (baby) and it’s negative, we may need to start looking for other sources of this swelling.
How long have you been married? Are you under pressure to have a baby? There are instances where a woman (and in some instances, a man) truly believes she’s pregnant but she’s not. This is called a false pregnancy and the person in question has a lot, if not all, the symptoms of pregnancy!
The exact cause of this false pregnancy, also known as pseudo-cyesis (pronounced siu-do sa-ye-sis) is not really known but it does appear that psychological issues (perhaps from being pressured to get pregnant, having had repeated miscarriages, worry about ever getting pregnant as menopause approaches) may lead to a situation where the body of a woman in this situation begins to produce pregnancy signs like swollen abdomen, swollen breasts etc. The brain then swings into action, erroneously interprets these signs as those of pregnancy, and begins to produce pregnancy hormones which lead to pregnancy symptoms like nausea and vomiting, absence of menstruation, weight gain etc. These symptoms could last for weeks, months or sometimes, even up to years. Sounds stranger than fiction, right?!
I suggest that you seek a second opinion. Have another doctor evaluate you to confirm the presence or absence of a pregnancy. If it is confirmed that pregnancy is absent and there is objective abdominal swelling, then the doctor will examine you and order investigations to find out the cause(s). Definitive treatment may also involve psychological therapy if indeed you are not pregnant but genuinely believed that you were.
All the best, dear. Let me know how it goes.
Loads of hugs coming your way…..