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Why Do I Feel Pregnant When I Am Not?

How Hormones Can Make You Think You're Pregnant, Even If You're Not


Updated June 06, 2014

A woman reading ingredients on an ice cream tub

Craving ice cream? With pickles? Don't assume this means you're pregnant!

Seb Oliver/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Feeling pregnant? Maybe you have been trying to get pregnant for a while and have months when you think you're pregnant, only to find out that, nope, you're not. If yes, you are not alone.

The experience of feeling pregnant when trying to conceive isn't uncommon. Spend any time on fertility message boards, and you're bound to hear members refer to "imaginary pregnancy symptoms." You probably have experienced imaginary pregnancy symptoms yourself.

So are these feelings all in your head? Maybe not...

Imaginary Pregnancy Symptoms

Imaginary Pregnancy Symptoms (IPS) are exactly what they sound like - symptoms a woman experiences that make her think that she may be pregnant. Don't expect to hear your doctor use the term IPS; it's not a technical term. The phrase was invented on fertility message boards around the world as a loving way to refer to those "symptoms" that make us feel pregnant.

The time between ovulation and your expected period is when you're most likely to be anxious about whether or not this month will be the month. It's natural to assume that you may imagine some early pregnancy symptoms, such as tender breasts, fatigue, bloating, emotional sensitivity, light cramping and even food cravings.

Much like an oasis in the desert, you want to be pregnant so much that you're sure you can feel it.

Feeling Pregnant - Not Completely Imaginary?

What may surprise you is that these feelings aren't all in your head. They're real reactions to the hormones in your body that are preparing for possible pregnancy.

Our bodies are optimistic when it comes to pregnancy potential. As soon as ovulation occurs, the body prepares itself for new life, even if conception did not take place.

One of the hormones responsible for many imaginary pregnancy symptoms is progesterone, which increases just after ovulation and drops when your period comes (if you're not pregnant). Progesterone can make you feel pregnant when you're not.

Also, if you're taking fertility drugs, their side effects can sometimes be mistaken for early pregnancy symptoms.

It'd be nice if we could just feel whether we're pregnant or not, and it sure would cut down the anxiety of the two-week wait.

The symptoms of early pregnancy, though, are practically indistinguishable from normal premenstrual symptoms.

The Bottom Line on Feeling Pregnant

While your "pregnant feelings" aren't 100% imagined, you can feel worse the more you focus on the feelings. It helps to remind yourself that whether you feel pregnant or not, it doesn't mean anything.

Some women are sure they are pregnant, complete with throwing up in the morning, and then find out they're not. Some women feel absolutely nothing and find out they're pregnant after all.

The only way to know if you're pregnant is to wait out the two-week wait and take a pregnancy test when your period is overdue.

(Note: When I talk about imaginary pregnancy symptoms, I'm not referring to the very serious psychological condition pseudocyesis, a psychological condition where a woman really believes that she is pregnant when she isn't. This is completely different than the normal experience of feeling that you may be pregnant, even if you aren't, during the 2-week wait.)

More on feeling pregnant and coping:

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Pregnancy Symptoms: Early Pregnancy Symptoms. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed June 29, 2008. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/gettingpregnant/earlypregnancysymptoms.html

Progesterone. National Women's Health Source. Accessed June 29, 2008. http://www.healthywomen.org/healthtopics/progesterone


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