Psychological pregnancy: know what it is and what treatments

The desire to be a mother is part of many women’s lives. However, there are factors that hinder or prevent a pregnancy, such as fertility problems.

Despite this, according to Freud, human sexuality involves much more than merely these biological issues, it also involves social issues, since having children and starting a family is usually a social requirement.

Often, women who arrive at a certain age and still have no children are questioned, feeling pressured to comply with such requirements, which for different reasons does not happen.

In this scenario, psychological pregnancy can occur, which although rare, is susceptible to women who have some pre-existing psychological disorder.

What is psychological pregnancy?

Psychological pregnancy, scientifically called pseudocyesis, is a syndrome in which the woman develops all the symptoms of a pregnancy, even if she is not pregnant. This picture is manifested by psychosomatic changes, that is, psychic factors trigger organic conditions, since there is a connection between the mind and the bodily responses.

It usually occurs with women who have hormonal and infertility problems, aged between 40 and 50 years, with neurotic tendencies and who have had no children.

It is a mechanism for the formation of symptoms in which there is a transfer of a psychic conflict to the body, in the form of symptoms, in an attempt to resolve it.

Psychological pregnancy is reminiscent of classic hysteria, much studied by Freud. The origin of the word hysteria already indicates its relation to the case, since hystera means uterus, in Greek.

It is the bodily expression of psychic conflicts, in order to satisfy the desire. Thus, the woman’s desire to become pregnant, although her body did not produce such a state in a natural way, triggers bodily changes.

Thus, the symptom (psychological pregnancy) is the way to express the psychic conflict between the individual’s desire (to be a mother) and his defense (not being able to get pregnant).

This defense exists as a way to avoid suffering, so the individual uses specific mechanisms to meet his goals.

They are means that the unconscious uses to mask reality, that is, to alleviate some pain, protecting the person from frustration and mental conflicts. For example, it can be a way for women to deny or deal with infertility.

What are the symptoms of a psychological pregnancy?

The physical symptoms are the same as those of a real pregnancy: absence of menstruation, breast enlargement, weight gain, abdominal distension, nausea, intrauterine movements, feeling desires, changes in mood, among others.

The desire to be a mother, who is often unconscious, causes psychic demands to be converted to the body.

Thus, the woman really incorporates motherhood, begins to imagine her life as a mother, creates illusions about the future and begins to plan for the arrival of the son or daughter.

Can psychological pregnancy affect men?

Psychological pregnancy can also happen to men and is called Couvade Syndrome. It occurs when the man has symptoms similar to pregnancy, both physical and psychological, such as the woman who is pregnant with her child.

It is related to man’s desire to be a father. Then he assumes this role and reacts to this condition as if he himself were gestating the child, together with the mother, characterizing psychological pregnancy. The man becomes so involved with the woman’s pregnancy that it is often said that the couple is pregnant.

It cannot be considered as a psychological disorder, but it is necessary to assess and identify the emotions involved and whether they are causing any type of suffering in order to seek professional help.

How does the diagnosis happen?

When pregnancy symptoms appear, the usual procedure is to carry out specific tests to identify the state in which the woman is.

In the first moment, it is customary to perform the HCG beta exam. A simple blood test identifies the presence or absence of this hormone, which is produced when pregnant. That is, in psychological pregnancy, the result will be negative.

However, it is still necessary to perform an ultrasound to confirm that the uterus is empty, since the woman continues to believe that she is actually pregnant.

How to treat psychological pregnancy?

Firstly, it is up to the doctor to inform the patient that she is not pregnant, based on the tests performed proving that there is no pregnancy.

However, the woman continues to believe that she is pregnant and psychological monitoring is necessary. A psychiatric assessment identifies whether there is an associated disorder or demand for drug treatment.

Psychotherapy, on the other hand, helps to understand what triggered the condition and to develop ways to accept and deal with this condition.

Psychological pregnancy can be characterized as a psychological disorder, triggered by several emotional factors, which develops in a subjective way, that is, each person develops it differently.


Psychological pregnancy is a condition that can affect women and, less often, men. It occurs, in general, when there is an intense desire to experience motherhood, but other factors prevent or hinder pregnancy.

The condition can make the woman really believe that she is pregnant, developing symptoms and presenting common physical changes during pregnancy.

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