False pregnancy is a state in which a woman feels that she is pregnant and her body shows or undergoes all the conditions related to pregnancy, but she is actually not pregnant. False pregnancy is also known as phantom pregnancy or hysterical pregnancy.
It is generally believed that false pregnancy can happen when there are certain changes in the endocrine system of the body. This leads to the secretion of certain hormones that lead to physical changes in the body which are similar to those that we experience during pregnancy.
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When a woman undergoes repeated miscarriages, or is suffering from certain infertility issues, or is on the verge of menopause, she might desperately want to get pregnant. It is during this time that her body might produce some false pregnancy signs.
These signs are misinterpreted by the woman's brain which in turn triggers the release of hormones like oestrogen and prolactin which give rise to actual pregnancy symptoms.
The symptoms of false pregnancy are similar to those of actual pregnancy symptoms. Patients of false pregnancy suffer from morning sickness, have tender and enlarged breasts and gain weight. There is also an interruption of the menstrual period. They also sometimes feel foetal movements. Other signs include labour pains, uterine enlargement and softening of the cervix.
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In order to find out whether a woman is suffering from false pregnancy or not, the doctor takes a look at her symptoms and carries out a pelvic exam and an ultrasound of the abdomen. These tests are carried out even during pregnancy. Urine pregnancy tests may also be conducted to find out whether the woman is actually pregnant or not.
False pregnancy can last from a few days to even months. Some patients need to be sent to a psychiatrist because of the trauma that they undergo once they get to know that they are not actually pregnant. In other cases, patients are treated with appropriate medication.