How You Can Be Pregnant for Months and Not Realize It

June 5, 2020   Pregnancy & Postpartum

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In addition to that radiant pregnancy glow an expectant mother will experience an overall body transformation throughout her journey.

It’s common to endure a bit of morning sickness (that strikes in the evening sometimes), as well as a growing belly (and other body parts), swollen ankles, heartburn, and exhaustion. Some women, however, can go a few months without experiencing any symptoms, often unaware of their pregnancy. There are a variety of reasons why women, who aren’t necessarily trying for a baby, can be well into their first or second trimesters and not know they are pregnant.



When pregnancy spotting is mistaken for a lighter period

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 20-30% of women experience some degree of bleeding in the early stages of pregnancy. Light bleeding or spotting, typically a light pink or dark brown color, is often mistaken for one’s period rather than a sign of pregnancy. If one conceives close to her normal period window, it is possible to experience “breakthrough bleeding” as her body adjusts to pregnancy.

If you are experiencing irregular vaginal bleeding and are sexually active, consider taking a test or consulting your provider.

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When irregular periods are considered "normal"

Every woman is different, and so is her period. Some experience back pain, headaches, fatigue, mood swings, or cramping, while others don’t experience period symptoms at all. Some women get their periods the same day/time each month, while others skip a month or two (or three).

Irregular periods can be attributed to a variety of factors including stress, too much exercise, a change in eating habits, or the use of an IUD as a form of birth control, to name a few. An irregular period is due to a varied period length, the amount of time between each menstrual cycle, and the differing amount of blood loss each cycle. So, for women who experience irregular periods, it may not be surprising when it doesn’t make an appearance that month. However, that missed period could be an indication of pregnancy.

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When told conceiving would be difficult (or impossible)

There have been instances where couples are told they are unable to conceive. With that in mind, they decide to have unprotected sex and end up having healthy babies after all—it’s certainly possible!


When there's a false negative on the pregnancy test

If you think you may be pregnant and recently took a pregnancy test that was negative, consider taking a second test to be sure, or call your provider for a blood test. It is possible to receive a false negative on an at-home test if you’ve taken it prematurely. For the most accurate result, take a pregnancy test the week after your missed period, or wait at least one to two weeks after you’ve had sex. The at-home pregnancy test detects levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is a hormone that’s only present if you’re pregnant. The hormone is released when a fertilized egg attaches outside the uterus or to your uterine lining.


When symptoms are attributed to something else

Some women are on their feet all day for work and come home exhausted, swollen, and sore. The potential pain and exhaustion they are feeling could certainly be from working all day, but they could also be symptoms of pregnancy, easily masked by the strenuous day. It is also common to attribute weight gain to something else. Perhaps you spent months training for a marathon and decided to switch to a lighter workout regimen and higher calorie count after the race, or maybe there have been changes in your diet.

When a bump shows up a little late

Although most people eventually start to show their growing bump in the second trimester (between 12 and 16 weeks), some baby bumps take a little longer to make an appearance. It is possible for your body to be changing on the inside, but not reflecting that change on the outside. All expectant mothers have different experiences throughout their pregnancy journey. You may notice that your belly makes an appearance quicker in your second pregnancy than in your first, or you have different symptoms altogether.

If you think you might be pregnant, contact your provider. He or she would be happy to help.

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If you are not using hormonal contraception and are not having regular periods, you should discuss it with your gynecologist. 

— Kristin Yates, D.O.

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