There are several conditions which have the same presenting features as those seen in pregnancy. To understand these conditions better, we should first take a look the common symptoms of pregnancy. These symptoms include:
- Implantation bleeding
- Missed periods
- Breast tenderness
- Lower backache
- Increased frequency of urination
- Food cravings
This symptom is observed by some women 6-12 days after fertilization. As the embryo implants onto the uterine wall, some spotting may occur. However, this spotting may also be seen in case of an altered menstrual cycle, uterine infection, a change in birth control pills or due to an abrasion during intercourse.
It is true that pregnancy is one of the most common reasons to miss a period. However, missed periods are also seen in very obese women, those who are lactating, are severely anemic or have some hormonal problems. It may also be a result of excessive stress.
Tenderness of breasts
A pregnant woman may notice some tenderness and swelling in her breasts as early as 1-2 weeks after conception. However, tenderness of the breasts may also be a manifestation of premenopausal syndrome, taking birth control pills or some underlying hormonal problem.
Some degree of lower backache may be observed throughout pregnancy because of the increased stress on the lumbar spines. However, it may also be seen before menstruation, in case of calcium deficiency or any other orthopedic problem, and due to poor posture and emotional stress.
Increased frequency of urination
A growing fetus puts pressure on the urinary bladder resulting in increased frequency of urination. During the earliest stages of pregnancy, hormones also lead to more frequent urination. However, this symptom may also be seen in case of urinary tract infection, diabetes or in people whose liquid intake is plentiful or who are on diuretics.
Society assumes any woman who exhibits food cravings to be pregnant. However, food cravings are also seen in women on an insufficient diet or who are suffering from depression.
Therefore, it is important to understand that observing any one or two of the above mentioned symptoms does not mean that a woman is pregnant. A pregnant woman exhibits a combination of these symptoms. One should also remember that there are several medical conditions where a woman may have all of these symptoms. One such condition is pseudocyesis or false pregnancy.
Pseudocyesis is a condition where a woman falsely believes that she is pregnant. She may have all the symptoms of pregnancy - except for the presence of a fetus. This condition is usually seen in women who have an intense desire to get pregnant. This may be because of:
- Repeated miscarriages
- Impending menopause
Because of the intense desire to get pregnant, the woman's body may exhibit certain signs of pregnancy like an enlarged tummy and tender breasts. Rarely, she may even perceive fetal movements. Her brain falsely interprets these symptoms as those of pregnancy and, in turn, produces pregnancy hormones like estrogen and progesterone. These hormones further enhance the symptoms of pregnancy.
The doctor rules out pregnancy in such cases with the help of an ultrasound scan, which shows the absence of a fetus, and a urinary pregnancy test which comes out negative.
There are several conditions which may show a false positive urinary pregnancy test. These include:
- Incorrectly done test or use of an out of date kit
- Fertility treatment using hCG hormone
- Diseases like trophoblastic disease or islet cell tumors
- Ovarian cancer
- Ectopic pregnancy
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