Cryptic Pregnancy: Hidden Signs You’re Pregnant & Don’t Know It

A cryptic pregnancy happens when a woman does not know that she is pregnant. 

A cryptic pregnancy is also called a stealth pregnancy, hidden pregnancy, concealed pregnancy, unknown pregnancy, or undetected pregnancy.

In some cases, women only find out that they are pregnant during the third trimester. 

In other cases, some cryptic pregnancies go undetected until the woman goes into labor. 

As daunting as a cryptic pregnancy may sound, the most important thing is to seek prenatal care and support as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. 

Read on to find out more about what a cryptic pregnancy is, the signs and symptoms of a hidden pregnancy, and more.

Signs you are pregnant but don’t know it

The symptoms of a cryptic pregnancy can vary from woman to woman. Here are some common signs that may mean you are pregnant:

  • Spotting – light vaginal bleeding that occurs outside of your normal period
  • Nausea and/or vomiting (especially during early pregnancy) 
  • Swollen or tender breasts
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Frequent urination

These unknown pregnancy signs can sometimes be assumed to be caused by something else. Sometimes, there can also be no signs or symptoms in a hidden pregnancy. 

What causes a stealth pregnancy?

A common question is, “How can you not know that you are pregnant?”

1) Pregnancy denial

In pregnancy denial, the woman may be aware of the pregnancy but cannot declare it. 

Sometimes, women can deny a pregnancy as a form of defense mechanism in response to a traumatic event such as rape or abuse.

Or, they may mistake the symptoms for something else, and the possibility of a pregnancy is ignored. 

2) Lack of pregnancy signs and symptoms

Some pregnant women may not have the following signs:

  • Weight gain
  • Morning sickness
  • Missed period
  • Developing a baby bump

3) Milder pregnancy symptoms

Some people with undetected pregnancy may still experience common pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, but they may dismiss it because it does not bother them as much.

4) Anatomical variations like an anterior placenta

Some people with certain anatomical variations, like stronger abdominal muscles or a retroverted or tilted uterus, may not develop an obvious baby bump.

In some cases, the placenta may be located in front of your womb. This is also known as an anterior placenta. 

In cases like this, it can be trickier for the mother to feel the fetus’s movement. This may conceal the pregnancy because it will take a longer time for the mother to feel fetal movements or kicks.

5) Mistaking the pregnancy symptoms to be caused by other conditions

In some cases of concealed pregnancies, the woman may mistake her symptoms for one of the following conditions:

  • Menopause or perimenopause 
  • Birth control
  • Stress or change in diet or exercise
  • Other illnesses like food poisoning and flu

6) A false negative pregnancy test result

There is a small chance that a pregnancy test kit may produce false or inaccurate results. 

A false negative result means that the test shows a negative result even though you are pregnant, misleading you into ignoring the other signs and symptoms.

7) Psychotic causes

Less commonly, psychotic causes of cryptic pregnancies may include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorder
  • An underlying personality disorder

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Who is at risk for a cryptic pregnancy?

Studies have shown that there are certain factors that increase the risk of a cryptic pregnancy. 

Some of the common risk factors are:

1) Women using birth control 

No birth control method is 100% effective, and there is always a small chance of pregnancy, especially if used incorrectly. 

Some women on birth control may not realize this and assume that they are completely protected from pregnancy while on birth control. 

Hence, they may be more unaware of the signs and symptoms of pregnancy.

2) Women after recent childbirth 

It is possible to get pregnant again very soon after giving birth, especially if the woman is not breastfeeding or using contraception. 

Coupled with signs like missed periods, weight gain, and abdominal swelling, some women may mistake these signs as signs from their previous pregnancy. 

Hence, they may ignore them and only discover the pregnancy until much later. 

3) Women with underlying hormonal imbalances such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) 

Conditions like PCOS can cause fertility issues and irregular periods. Women with PCOS who do get pregnant may not suspect the missed periods as a sign of pregnancy.

4) Perimenopausal women 

Perimenopause refers to the period before a woman attains her menopause. Usually, women in their 40s would experience the symptoms of perimenopause, which may mimic signs and symptoms of pregnancy. 

These signs and symptoms include missed periods, fatigue, bloating, and weight gain. 

Moreover, women who are experiencing perimenopause are often in their late 30s or 40s. Hence, they may think that their chances of getting pregnant are lower due to their age. 

This may lead to them ignoring or mistaking signs and symptoms of pregnancy to be something else. 

5) Younger women 

On the other side of the spectrum, younger females such as teenagers, those with lesser experience, or those with lower education levels are also more likely to experience a stealth pregnancy. 

How common are concealed pregnancies?

A European study showed that cryptic pregnancies happen in 1 in 475 pregnancies. This is more common than women who give birth to triplets. 

Do you still get your period during a hidden pregnancy?

No. However, you may experience light bleeding, also known as spotting. 

In cases of hidden pregnancies, it may be mistaken as a period. Hence, some women may assume that they are menstruating as usual and not pregnant. 

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Potential complications of an undetected pregnancy

The potential complications or concerns of a cryptic pregnancy include:

1) Lack of prenatal care

The prenatal or antenatal period refers to the time of conception to the birth of your child. During this time, antenatal care is very important to ensure the health of both mother and baby is monitored and taken care of.

Good prenatal care can help prevent common issues encountered during pregnancy and allows your doctor to detect certain problems, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. 

These issues may lead to more devastating complications, such as pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, which affect not only the mother but the fetus as well. 

Other problems from the lack of antenatal care also include babies born prematurely or with low birth weight.

2) Anxiety and other mental health problems

Finding out that you’re pregnant when you’re far along could lead to feelings of surprise, shock, under-preparedness, insecurity, or anxiety. 

3) Lack of birth planning

Birth planning includes knowing your preferences during labor, such as the position you want to give birth in, the type of pain relief methods, who you want to be with during labor, and where you want to give birth. 

This can help the mother-to-be feel more supported and assured throughout her pregnancy. 

Having a birth plan can also help the family budget and prepare financially. 

Cost and preparedness can be an issue in a cryptic pregnancy. There may be higher risks of birth complications or the requirement of emergency procedures, hence incurring a higher cost. 

Some cases of cryptic pregnancies may also lead to unattended or unplanned home births, which are associated with higher risks of complications. 

How can you prevent an unknown pregnancy?

One of the most important steps to prevent an unknown pregnancy is good sex education. This increases your awareness of sexual health and changes in your body. 

Good sex education includes:

  • Recognizing the common signs and symptoms of pregnancy
  • Knowing the risks and benefits of your birth control method and how to use it correctly
  • Monitoring your period and recognizing when it is irregular or missed, especially after having sexual intercourse
  • Knowing how to use a home pregnancy test kit correctly
  • Practicing safe sex to prevent an unwanted pregnancy

Is it my fault?

Most definitely not, because there is no way you could have known to do anything differently. 

The most important thing to do is to check in as soon as possible with your healthcare provider to receive prenatal care. 

If you are struggling to cope with your pregnancy, please talk to your healthcare provider. They may be able to provide you with guidance and support or direct you to the appropriate resources.


Cryptic pregnancy is when a woman does not realize that she is pregnant until late into her pregnancy or sometimes until labor itself. 

Concealed pregnancies are more likely to happen to women with underlying health problems like PCOS, women who are on birth control, and women who have recently had a child. 

Complications of a hidden pregnancy may include challenges in obtaining timely prenatal care and potential risks of unattended births, posing potential risks to both the mother and baby.

Discovering an unknown pregnancy can be overwhelming for many individuals and may be associated with various challenges for both the mother and baby.

However, if you happen to realize you are pregnant late into your pregnancy, the most important thing is to stay calm and do the best you can for your child while awaiting their birth.

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  2. Duckitt, K. (2023). Cryptic pregnancy. Case Reports in Women’s Health, 38.
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  4. Delong, H., Eutrope, J., Thierry, A., Sutter‐Dallay, A. L., Vulliez, L., Gubler, V., … & Pregnancy Denial Study Group. (2022). Pregnancy denial: a complex symptom with life context as a trigger? A prospective case–control study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 129(3), 485-492.
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  7. Basile KC, Smith SG, Liu Y, et al. Rape-related pregnancy and association with reproductive coercion in the U.S. Am J Prev Med. 2018;55(6):770-776. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2018.07.028
  8. Delibo, D., Damena, M., Gobena, T., & Balcha, B. (2020). Status of home delivery and its associated factors among women who gave birth within the last 12 months in east Badawacho District, Hadiya zone, Southern Ethiopia. BioMed Research International, 2020.

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