Erin Langmaid, a 23-year-old Australian model (now 27 years), made headlines in November 2019 when she revealed that she had given birth to a baby girl, Isla May, without even realizing she was pregnant. Erin Langmaid’s cryptic pregnancy is a rare example of a cryptic pregnancy (hidden pregnancy), a condition in which a woman is unaware of her pregnancy until she goes into labor.
Erin Langmaid’s Cryptic Pregnancy Experience
Erin Langmaid, aged 23, gave birth to her baby girl, Isla May, who weighed 7 pounds and 7 ounces, on October 29, alongside her boyfriend, Daniel Carty. The astonishing aspect? She remained completely unaware of her pregnancy throughout. Langmaid, a model, experienced no visible belly, cravings, morning sickness, or any typical pregnancy signs.
She revealed, ‘I wasn’t visibly pregnant because I could still fit into all my clothes. It’s truly surreal.’ Langmaid’s realization of her pregnancy occurred when she suddenly felt unwell and rushed to the bathroom. Less than 10 minutes later, she was holding baby Isla. When her boyfriend, Daniel Carty, heard her scream and rushed to the bathroom, he was taken aback, thinking, ‘Wait, there are two?’ However, he soon realized that Isla was not breathing and called triple-0, which is Australia’s equivalent of 911.
Fortunately, both Langmaid and the baby are in good health. Her condition is most likely what medical professionals term a cryptic pregnancy. This phenomenon is supported by statistics, possibly originating from a 2002 German study, indicating that one in 475 women remains unaware of their pregnancy at 20 weeks, and one in 2,445 women doesn’t realize they are pregnant until labor begins.
Despite their initial shock, the couple is optimistic about the future. Langmaid stated, ‘I’m still in disbelief, but we’re adapting, and this is our life now. We wouldn’t change it.’
In an Instagram post shared by Carty featuring the trio, he wrote, ‘After a challenging few days, both mother and daughter are perfectly healthy and ready to return home. The support from our family and friends is something we can never thank them enough for. Erin, your bravery is beyond my expectations, and you are an incredible person who will be an amazing mother. After a hectic week, we look forward to embarking on life as a little family with this adorable new addition and all the joys that come with it!’
What is a Cryptic Pregnancy?
A cryptic pregnancy, also known as a stealth or hidden pregnancy, is a rare condition in which a woman is unaware of her pregnancy, or healthcare providers may have difficulty detecting it. Unlike typical pregnancies, where most women experience noticeable symptoms and produce detectable levels of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), cryptic pregnancies can be characterized by several factors that make them less easily identifiable.
What Causes a Cryptic Pregnancy?
Cryptic pregnancies are still not well understood by science, and there is no clear explanation for why some women do not realize they are pregnant until they go into labor. However, there are several theories:
- An excessive level of stress during the implantation phase
- The presence of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Peri-menopause, which may commence as early as 30 years old and can remain unnoticed.
- A recent pregnancy where hormonal levels haven’t returned to their usual state before conceiving again.
- Breastfeeding is ongoing, and hormonal balance hasn’t been restored before a subsequent pregnancy.
- A notably low percentage of body fat, leading to hormonal disruptions.
- The use of or recent history of contraceptive methods such as “Norplant,” the “Deprovera” Injection, or the “Mirena Coil,” which continuously release hormones into the body.
- The potential for cryptic pregnancies to be an inherited trait passed from mother to daughter.
What are the Signs of Cryptic Pregnancy?
Signs of a hidden pregnancy can vary among individuals, but they may include:
- Missed Periods: Some individuals with cryptic pregnancies continue to have sporadic bleeding or spotting that they mistake for regular menstrual periods.
- Minimal or Absent Pregnancy Symptoms: Unlike typical pregnancies, where symptoms like morning sickness, breast tenderness, and fatigue are common, individuals with cryptic pregnancies may experience very few or none of these symptoms.
- Normal Weight Gain: Many pregnant individuals experience weight gain during pregnancy, but some with cryptic pregnancies do not gain weight or do so very gradually.
- Negative Pregnancy Tests: Home pregnancy tests may yield negative results because they rely on detecting the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), and some cryptic pregnancies produce lower or atypical levels of hCG.
- Denial or Lack of Awareness: In some cases, individuals may be in denial about the possibility of pregnancy due to various personal or psychological reasons. This can lead to a lack of awareness about the pregnancy.
- Continued Menstrual-Like Bleeding: Some individuals may experience ongoing bleeding throughout their pregnancy, which they attribute to their periods. This can occur due to various factors, including cervical bleeding or hormonal irregularities.
- Negative Ultrasound Findings: In cases of hidden pregnancy, ultrasound examinations may not initially detect the pregnancy, especially if the fetus is positioned in a way that makes it difficult to visualize.
Who is at Risk for a Cryptic Pregnancy?
While cryptic pregnancies can happen to anyone, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of not recognizing a pregnancy
- Irregular Menstrual Cycles: Individuals with irregular periods may not notice missed periods as a sign of pregnancy, making it easier for them to overlook the pregnancy.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, making it challenging to rely on missed periods as a pregnancy indicator.
- Obesity: In some cases, individuals with obesity may have a diminished ability to perceive fetal movements or changes in their bodies that typically signal pregnancy.
- Use of Contraception: While contraception is highly effective when used correctly, there is still a small chance of failure. Some individuals using contraception might not consider the possibility of pregnancy when they experience unusual symptoms.
- Perimenopause: During perimenopause, women may experience irregular periods and symptoms that mimic those of pregnancy. This can lead to confusion and a delayed recognition of pregnancy.
- Lack of Pregnancy Symptoms: Some people experience minimal or atypical pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness or noticeable weight gain, which can contribute to a delayed diagnosis.
- Psychological Factors: In rare cases, psychological factors, such as denial or a strong desire not to be pregnant, can lead to a delayed acknowledgment of pregnancy.
How Common is a Cryptic Pregnancy?
Cryptic pregnancy is a rare phenomenon, and the incidence varies depending on the study. Here are some estimates:
- Studies suggest that about 1 in 475 pregnancies go unnoticed until about 20 weeks gestation, and about 1 in 2,500 pregnancies go unnoticed until delivery.
- A 2011 review found that different population studies found the rate of cryptic, or denied, pregnancy at 20 weeks to vary between 1 in 475 people to 1 in 2,455 people.
- One study found that 30% of cryptic pregnancies occurred in individuals using contraception, with 75% using oral contraceptives.
Will a Cryptic Pregnancy Show on a Pregnancy Test?
You should still get a positive pregnancy test with a cryptic pregnancy if you use an at-home pregnancy test correctly. To ensure an accurate result, follow the instructions on the package and wait several days after your missed period before taking the test.
However, if your symptoms do not align with your home pregnancy test result, it’s advisable to have a healthcare provider confirm the pregnancy with a blood test. A hidden pregnancy can occasionally yield negative home pregnancy test results due to slower or atypical hCG hormone production. Healthcare professionals use more sensitive blood tests to detect pregnancy accurately. If you suspect a hidden pregnancy, seek consultation with a healthcare provider for a comprehensive evaluation.
Do You get Your Period in a Cryptic Pregnancy?
No, a hidden pregnancy resembles a typical pregnancy in that it does not involve a true menstrual period. Instead, you might encounter implantation bleeding or unusual bleeding during pregnancy, which may be mistaken for a menstrual cycle.
How Long can a Cryptic Pregnancy Last?
The length of a hidden pregnancy can vary, and there is no clear answer. Some studies suggest that most people realize they’re pregnant about 20 weeks into the pregnancy, but a person can be unaware they’re pregnant during the entire 40 weeks of pregnancy. There have been cases where a person goes to the emergency room with pelvic pain only to discover they’re in labor. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a cryptic pregnancy can last longer than a typical pregnancy, perhaps related to very low hormone levels at the start.
How is Cryptic Pregnancy Diagnosed?
Diagnosing a cryptic pregnancy can be challenging due to the lack of typical pregnancy signs and symptoms. However, healthcare providers may use the following methods to confirm pregnancy:
- Ultrasound: This imaging test can visualize the fetus and the uterus, providing direct evidence of pregnancy.
- Blood test: A blood test can measure the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone produced during pregnancy, to confirm pregnancy.
- Urine (pee) test: Similar to a home pregnancy test, a urine test can detect the presence of hCG and confirm pregnancy.
How is a Cryptic Pregnancy Treated?
If you have a cryptic pregnancy, your pregnancy care provider will try to catch you up on the prenatal care you’ve missed, which could include:
- Blood and urine tests: These tests can help confirm the pregnancy and monitor the person’s health during the pregnancy.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound can provide visual confirmation of the fetus and help estimate the gestational age.
- Measuring fundal height: This measurement can help track the growth of the uterus and the baby.
- Physical exam: A physical exam can help assess the person’s overall health and well-being during the pregnancy.
- Nutritional and lifestyle counseling: The healthcare provider may offer guidance on maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle during the pregnancy.
Can you Prevent Cryptic Pregnancy?
There is no surefire way to prevent a cryptic pregnancy, as it can occur even when a person is practicing safe sex and using contraception. However, maintaining awareness of your body and sexual health can help in detecting a pregnancy early on. If you believe there is any chance you could be pregnant, it is always best to take a home pregnancy test or visit a healthcare provider for a blood or urine test. Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can also help in monitoring your reproductive health and detecting any potential pregnancies.
What can We Learn from Erin Langmaid’s Cryptic Pregnancy?
Erin Langmaid’s Pregnancy experience of a cryptic pregnancy has brought attention to this phenomenon, which is more common than people might think. Here are some things we can learn from her experience:
- Cryptic pregnancies can happen to anyone, regardless of age, health, or lifestyle.
- Women who experience cryptic pregnancies may not have any of the typical symptoms of pregnancy, such as morning sickness, cravings, or a baby bump.
- Cryptic pregnancies can be caused by physiological factors or psychological problems, such as denied pregnancy.
- Healthcare providers need to be aware of cryptic pregnancies and be prepared to provide appropriate care to women who experience them.
- Cryptic pregnancies can have an impact on mental health, and women who experience them may need support and counseling.
- The experience of having a cryptic pregnancy can be shocking and overwhelming for the mother and her family, but with support and care, they can adjust to their new reality.
- Society needs to be more aware of cryptic pregnancies and provide better support to women who experience them.
How can Society Better Support Women Who Experience Cryptic Pregnancies?
Cryptic pregnancies can be a challenging experience for women, and society can play a role in supporting them. Here are some ways society can better support women who experience cryptic pregnancies:
- Education: Society can educate women about the signs and symptoms of pregnancy and encourage them to seek medical attention if they suspect they might be pregnant. Education can also help reduce the stigma associated with cryptic pregnancies and raise awareness about the phenomenon.
- Mental health support: Cryptic pregnancies can have an impact on mental health, and women who experience them may need support and counseling. Society can provide access to mental health professionals who can provide the necessary support.
- Healthcare access: Society can ensure that women have access to healthcare services, including prenatal care, regardless of their socioeconomic status or insurance coverage. This can help ensure that women who experience cryptic pregnancies receive appropriate care.
- Support groups: Society can provide support groups for women who experience cryptic pregnancies. These groups can provide a safe space for women to share their experiences, receive emotional support, and connect with others who have gone through similar experience.
- Policy changes: Society can advocate for policy changes that support women who experience cryptic pregnancies. This could include changes to healthcare policies, such as increasing access to prenatal care, or changes to employment policies, such as providing job protection for women who need time off for medical appointments or to care for a newborn.
How Can Healthcare Providers Help Women Who Experience Cryptic Pregnancies?
Healthcare providers can play a crucial role in helping women who experience cryptic pregnancies. Here are some ways healthcare providers can help:
- Diagnosis: Pregnancy care providers diagnose cryptic pregnancy like they would a typical pregnancy. Some of the ways providers confirm pregnancy include ultrasound, blood tests, urine tests, measuring fundal height, and physical exams.
- Prenatal care: Treatment for cryptic pregnancy depends on when the pregnancy is discovered. If the pregnancy is discovered months before delivery, a pregnancy care provider will try to catch up on the prenatal care that has been missed. This could include blood and urine tests, ultrasound, measuring fundal height, a physical exam, and nutritional and lifestyle counseling.
- Mental health support: Cryptic pregnancies can have an impact on mental health, and women who experience them may need support and counseling. Healthcare providers can refer women to mental health professionals who can provide the necessary support.
- Education: Healthcare providers can educate women about the signs and symptoms of pregnancy and encourage them to seek medical attention if they suspect they might be pregnant. Providers can also educate women about the risks associated with cryptic pregnancies and the importance of prenatal care.
- Support: Healthcare providers can provide emotional support to women who experience cryptic pregnancies. Providers can listen to their concerns, answer their questions, and provide reassurance and encouragement.
Are There any Support Groups for Cytic Pregnancy?
Yes, there are support groups for cryptic pregnancy patients. Some of them are:
- Cryptic Pregnancy Support Group: An interactive chat group for women who are currently experiencing cryptic pregnancies.
- The Gilmour Foundation: A support and information group for women who are experiencing a cryptic pregnancy.
- National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD): A non-profit organization that provides support and resources for people with rare diseases, including cryptic pregnancy.
Erin Langmaid’s cryptic pregnancy is a rare but fascinating example of a cryptic pregnancy. Her experience highlights the fact that pregnancy can be a complex and unpredictable process, and that not all women experience the same symptoms or signs of pregnancy. While cryptic pregnancies are still not well understood by science, Erin Langmaid’s cryptic pregnancy has shed light on this rare condition and sparked important conversations about women’s health and reproductive rights.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a cryptic pregnancy?
A cryptic pregnancy is a pregnancy that goes unnoticed until delivery, even if the person has taken pregnancy tests and seen a doctor.
Are cryptic pregnancies real?
Yes, cryptic pregnancies are real.
Do you still form a bump during a cryptic pregnancy?
It is possible to have a small bump during a cryptic pregnancy, but it is not always the case.