By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 03/15/2016

Women may suffer from this syndrome or psychological disorder when, despite being pregnant, they manifest none of the common symptoms linked to the gestation period. There is no belly growth, nausea, or bloating. In extreme cases, monthly menstruation continues.

The different sections of this article have been assembled into the following table of contents.

Types of pregnancy denial

Two possible situations can occur:

  • Partial or incomplete denial: women become aware they are pregnant when they are 6, 7, or 8 months pregnant.
  • Total or complete denial: women don not even know they are pregnant until the moment of childbirth.

It is estimated that one in every 500 pregnancies are denied, either partially or completely. In Spain, half a million children are born every year. Calculations show that out of these, 200 pregnancies are totally denied, although this phenomenon has not been studied well enough yet.

There is no profile able to define the predisposition to this rare psychological disorder. It can occur among teenagers but also more mature women may develop it as well. First-time mothers and women who already have children are also included in this group.

Pregnancy without symptoms and menstruation

According to a study by Dr. Felix Navarro, expert in Public Health in France and president of the Association for the Recognition of Pregnancy Denial, about 60% of women with this condition continue to have monthly or genital bleeding.

According to Dr. Navarro, most of these women do not get fat or just gain a few pounds, and misinterpret small symptoms. For example, they associate fetal movements to simple stomach or bladder pain.

Denial of pregnancy is a disease without specific symptoms. The main problem linked to this disorder is that women continue with their normal lives and can put the baby’s health at risk. Particularly serious are the cases when women continue with unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking or ingesting other toxic products, which can alter fetal development.

Denial disorder

Pregnancy denial is not a new pathology. Until recently, little was known about it and its recognition by the European society was uneven between countries. However, its widespread recognition is becoming a reality.

The cause of this pathology is still unknown, but most theories associate it with psychology. In fact, most women with this disorder only manifest psychiatric pathologies and, as a general rule, they continue to have a normal life after having suffered from the pregnancy denial syndrome.

What happens after childbirth?

In this regard, disparities can be found. There are cases when women, even if they have denied their pregnancy, see the arrival of their baby as a gift from life. Other women take time to create a mother-child bond, but finally feel happy about it and end up adoring their baby.

Finally, the saddest and most problematic cases associated with the pathology are those in which mothers abandon their babies after childbirth. These cases are usually connected with total denial and can be life-threatening for the baby if the mother gives birth by herself.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information
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4 comments

  1. Featured
    Brianna

    My best friends IS pregnant but she is in denial to herself and makes up excuses for the pregnancy symptoms. And I don’t know what to do or say to her. I don’t want her to go to the hospital while in labor and be there by herself all confused and scared. I want to help her but I don’t know how!

    • Sandra FernándezBA, MA

      Dear Brianna,

      For some women, a new pregnancy can turn out to be a period of deep psychological upheaval and/or even stress. In some cases, women find it difficult to share their anxiety with their beloved ones, and this is the origin of the pregnancy denial syndrome in most cases.

      My advice is that you seek psychological counseling for her. This may help her overcome this situation and see it from a different point of view.

      Best wishes

  1. Elvis

    What about after the birth, if, when there is an acceptance of the child or even a non-acceptance, there is not enough real information on it?
    There must be some amount of guilt? Shame or just negative feelings and emotions to deal with both for the pregnancy denial and any period of non-acceptance. Relating to the child with all that possibly coming between mother and child must be difficult?
    Should/could the mother not be told to get counselling at the birth? One way or another I would think it would be necessary. I am thinking of the first-time mothers in particular.

  2. betty damon

    Hello, I just wanted to say that pregnancy denial is a hard stage in a woman’s life. My sister went through it and she has developed some attachment problems with her son, even though he’s the kindest child on earth. She was conscious that she was pregnant from the beginning, but she just didn’t want to admit it. She was wanted to spend those 9 months in her life just as if nothing had happened. Of course, it was an unplanned pregnancy and we don’t know anything about the father…