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Pseudocyesis (false pregnancy) has captured the imagination of both clinicians and nonclinicians for centuries, and has been featured in multiple books, movies and television shows. In this rare clinical syndrome, a non-pregnant, non-psychotic woman believes she is pregnant and exhibits signs and symptoms of pregnancy. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) includes pseudocyesis under Other Specified Somatic Symptom and Related Disorder [1].


Pseudocyesis is a rare disorder that affects all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups [2,3]. It is most common in women aged 20 to 39 years, but has been described in premenarchal and postmenopausal women. In one series of 444 cases dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, most patients were married and at least 40 percent had given birth previously [3].  

Although accurate incidence figures are not available, pseudocyesis has been posited to occur more frequently in cultures where childbearing is the central role of women, and fertility (or cultural pressure for giving birth to a child of a specific sex) is a prerequisite for marriage or for a stable relationship. With trends towards smaller family size in developed countries, the incidence of pseudocyesis tends to decrease [4], although immigrants may remain at risk [5-8].


The clinical presentation of pseudocyesis has both psychological and physiological aspects. Affected women have a belief that they are pregnant and also have one or more of the following signs or symptoms:

Abdominal enlargement

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 11, 2016.
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