Denial of pregnancy: how to recognize it? consequences ?

What is denial of pregnancy?

denial of pregnancy means being pregnant without knowing it. In the introduction to his book The double denial of pregnancy, the psychoanalyst Karine Denza recalls a significant episode of her youth: the denial of a pregnancy by one of her comrades. “Her name was Corinne. We were in first class and we were both 17 years old. She looked like a tomboy, hair still tied, in jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt. One day I stopped seeing her in class. I asked my teacher who told me: Corinne was pregnant without knowing it and she just gave birth, we won’t see her again. And in fact I never saw her again.

Refusal to conceive is still a taboo subject. It’s hard to believe that a woman can be pregnant without realizing it.

Often these women are not believed; They’re considered concealers, confirms Karine Denza. However, if the pregnancy is concealed, the woman will know that she is pregnant. Pregnancy is made conscious but hidden. Contrasted with denial, where the pregnancy is not disclosed.

Partial refusal or total refusal?

We speak of pregnancy denial when the woman finds out that she is pregnant. from the fourteenth week from amenorrhea. There are two different types of denial: partial denial and total denial.

“The denial is considered partial if it is lifted before the end of the pregnancy, and complete if the woman learns she is pregnant at the time of delivery,” explains Karine Denza. According to studies carried out in France on the subject, the refusal of pregnancy (total or partial) would be worrying 1 case in 450 or 500 births.

An invisible pregnancy

If you deny the signs of pregnancy – nauseaweight gain, amenorrhea, Belly that curves – are absent or misinterpreted. “In contrast to”phantom pregnancy“Where the woman appears to be pregnant but is not, here she does not appear to be pregnant even though she is,” explains psychiatrist Benoît Bayle in his book. Denial of pregnancy, a mental pregnancy disorder. It’s a pregnancy at”stowaway“. Of wrong “rules” are sometimes present, the lighter the more the woman takes oral contraception or that she has bleeding in early pregnancy. She is neither gaining nor losing weight. She does not feel nausea, does not notice it or hardly notices it. She doesn’t realize that swelling of her breasts. She does not feel her child move. So this is confusing.”

No grace period

In fact, in denial of pregnancy that late time which often prompts a woman to see her gynecologist may not be present. According to a study by Dr. Christoph Brezinka (source 1), who studied these characteristics in women who partially or completely denied pregnancy: only 26% reported amenorrhea15% had regular bleeding reminiscent of their usual periods, 7% reported continuous blood loss and 44% had irregular bleeding.

No signs of pregnancy

the other sympathetic signs of pregnancy – Nausea, breast tenderness, drowsiness, tiredness and frequent urination – are not available and little or no weight gain. So according to the study by Dr. Christoph Brezinka only 22% of womenadmit to feeling nauseous. Fetal movements, which can usually be felt around the 20th week of pregnancy, go unnoticed or are interpreted as digestive disorders.

“In the case of refusal to get pregnant, no metamorphosis of the body takes place,” confirms Karine Denza. the Baby stands behind the ribsthe belly does not grow, the periods are often present, there is no indication that the woman is pregnant or at least the signs that the body shows are not interpreted as such by the woman because it is unthinkable for her that she it is pregnant, it cannot be represented”.

What Causes Denial of Pregnancy?

denial is one psychological defense mechanism very powerful.

It is an unconscious defense strategy to protect the mother from fears: fear of childbirth, fear of childbirth, fear of motherhood, etc. Karine Denza confirms.

This fear may be associated with a childhood traumaa adjustment disorder or even to intrapsychic conflicts unsolved. In her book, the psychoanalyst cites Lise as an example: “Lise always thought motherhood was stressful, she didn’t want to be a mother, she saw it as ‘a huge thing’. She didn’t want this agony, she writes. For her, denial was the best way to be a mother because she could never have overcome her anguish, her trauma. Without this denial, Lise would undoubtedly have terminated her pregnancy or experienced it very badly if she had known she was pregnant. ».

Women don’t introduce themselves no symptomsno outward signs of pregnancy (bloated stomach, weight gain, etc.) it is very difficult to detect refusal of pregnancy. As a rule, the closest people do not notice anything, and it even happens that doctors overlook a very advanced pregnancy!

The Undoing of Denial

In one Partial denial of pregnancy, the woman often finds out by chance, during a routine check-up at the doctor’s or when visiting the gynecologist, that she is pregnant. “As soon as the woman finds out that she is pregnant – for example by looking at the ultrasound images – and the refusal is lifted, that’s how it is liberate the body. the Belly sometimes swells in a few hours, emphasizes the psychoanalyst.

On the other hand in total denial where the woman only finds out about her pregnancy at the time of childbirth, it is much more difficult to lift the refusal of pregnancy when the child is born. In addition, the mother very often only recognizes the child when a family member comes to visit and recognizes the child themselves. Thereby he occupies a place in the family line, the lifting of the denial is therefore deferred.”

What are the risk factors?

Are some women more prone than others to deny pregnancy? Karine Denza is categorical: “ Denial affects all social classes, all women of childbearing age, common criteria do not seem to exist ».

Several factors increase the risk of rejection. For example :

  • a supposed sterility,
  • a Pregnancy resulting from sexual assault,
  • a difficult family background (sexual or psychological abuse)
  • or closely spaced pregnancies.
  • in their work They give birth and are not pregnantSophie Marinopoulos and Israel Nisand add that denial “happens in family circles where it exists a certain emotional misery ».

What are the consequences for the child?

In normal times it is relationship between mother and child is built very early in utero. The mother-to-be imagines her baby, talks to him, buys clothes. A shortcut is created. “As the months pass, the expected child finds a place in the family history,” confides the psychoanalyst. With partial denial of pregnancy, the woman has time to get acquainted with her baby. But with total denial of pregnancy, it’s more complicated. in the Lacking this period of necessary psychological maturation of pregnancy, making the connection can be difficult. Accompanying the mother and child is then necessary to help the mother build that emotional bond with her baby.”

For further reading:

  • The double denial of pregnancyKarine Denza, published by L’Harmattan.
  • Denial of pregnancy, a disorder of mental pregnancy, dr Benoît Bayle, Érès editions.
  • They give birth and are not pregnantSophie Marinopoulos and Israel Nisand, Les liens qui liberateurs editions.

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