‘I didn’t know I was 6 months pregnant’
While some women feel symptoms from a few weeks, others may be taken by surprise.
Can you be 6 months pregnant and not know it?

Apparently you can, and it happens to typical healthy women who have jobs, husbands and even previous children. In other words, yes, it could happen to you.

How do you miss that you’re pregnant?

But surely you’d notice if you missed your period or gained weight, and you’d definitely feel a baby kicking you from inside – I hear you ask? Well, for some women this is simply not the case. Jo-Ann Twigg, 40, is a Jo’burg-based mother of two who missed all the signs with both her pregnancies until she was at least six months along.

‘I was always irregular with my periods, and I didn’t gain weight until later on the pregnancy. In fact, it was only when I started getting bigger but wasn’t doing anything differently in my diet and lifestyle, that I went to the doctor and my first pregnancy was confirmed,’ she explains.

And as for the kicking? Well, Jo-Ann put it down to irritable bowel syndrome and gas. Her first baby was born prematurely, so Jo-Ann had eight very short weeks to prepare for her arrival. ‘It was a shock and a big surprise! I thought I was in tune with my body, and we were actually trying to fall pregnant, but I missed all the signs,’ she laughs.

Ten years later, after repeated attempts to fall pregnant again, Jo-Ann and her husband Lester thought they would have to settle for having an only child. ‘Again, I only discovered I was pregnant when I was six months along. I’ve often wondered if I was psychologically blocking the pregnancies out, but I so badly wanted babies, so I don’t think it was that.’

Strangely enough, Jo-Ann describes how the moment she discovered her pregnancies, she would immediately balloon out and start looking pregnant and even start having cravings and other symptoms.

It is more common than you think

Jo-Ann is not alone. Concealed or denied pregnancies, as they are called by the medical community, happen more frequently than anyone would believe.  A German-based study done in 2002 by Wessel et al found that 1 in 425 women did not realise they were pregnant until they were at least 20 weeks, and a whopping 1 in 2455 did not know they were pregnant until they went into labour!

Different levels of denial

Although it happens frequently, there are many different ways in which pregnancies are denied or concealed, from women who truly have no idea, to those who are aware but purposefully hide it.

Another study on denied and concealed pregnancy done found that 66% of these women had at least a high-school education, were in their mid-twenties, employed, and only 8% were in abusive relationships. Pretty darn normal no?

Whatever the reason and whatever the mother’s circumstances, what is quite alarming is the fact that the majority of these mothers leave the hospitals, baby in tow, without ever having been seen by a psychiatrist or counsellor.

Having a baby drop in your lap unexpectedly has got to have some kind of emotional ramification, and surely a bit of professional help would be in order – for the sake of the mother and baby?

American Dr Susan J. Hatters-Friedman agrees, and is quoted in an article written by Paula Moyer in June 2006 for Medscape Medical News as saying, ‘…we need to be concerned, because it takes some psychic effort not to notice you’re pregnant or that a family member or loved one is pregnant.’

At this point, not much is known about concealed or denied pregnancies and the effect they have on the mothers, babies and other family members. What is clear is that this phenomenon is much more common than you’d think and the women affected are, in many cases, just like you and me.

When did you know you were pregnant?

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