Meet the Phantom (not of the Opera)

You do not need to be a medical or nursing student to have heard the term “phantom pregnancy”. Pseudocyesis is pretty much when a woman’s body believes she is pregnant. Only, she’s not. Her abdomen will distend. Some will even claim to feel the baby kicking.

And here’s the kicker (sorry, couldn’t resist)… true phantoms are not a case of attention-seeking. The mother really believes she is pregnant. Her body agrees.

But that’s not really what I am interested in today.

Friend in Third Year is on obstetrics now and during a practical session on Leopold-maneuvers, an obstetrician started telling them about phantom pregnancies. They are rare, but I guess not unheard of.

Said obstetrician was once called in for a complicated birth that was referred from a rural clinic. She noticed that she couldn’t figure out the fetus’s station. She couldn’t even figure out on which side the spine was (which is usually easy-ish).

Then she couldn’t pick up a heartbeat on the CTG (basically a fetal heart-monitor).

She then figured to start at the beginning, and ordered a pregnancy test. Which came back negative. And last but not least, the sonar came up empty.

Did I mention the lady was in actual labour?

I’m not poking at the would-be mommy. I have sympathy for her.

I have no sympathy for the practitioner who diligently plotted SF-measurements and never figured out that the pregnant abdomen definitely did not feel pregnant.

Weird, right?


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