*Disclaimer – This post has not been fact-checked nor is it based on any medical information. Please only read this post for interest only. A good debate has been created around phantom and cryptic pregnancy but if you are experiencing anything similar or you are worried about your symptoms, please ALWAYS consult a medical professional for medical advice. NEVER rely on online resources for diagnoses.
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My name is Neo Brown. I am 37 and I live in the UK. I am married to an Analyst, and I am a mother of four. I am a musician and I am also studying for a maths degree.
I found school extremely boring, although I did quite well somehow. The teachers could never figure this out, so they sent me for testing. I was found to have a very high IQ and was diagnosed as “gifted”(which basically means your idea of bliss is reading textbooks and studying piano sheet music). So my college teachers pushed me into going to medical school and I was tempted. I bought first-year medical textbooks instead of the makeup and teenage clothes my friends were into and actually taught myself quite a lot from almost constant medical and scientific reading.
But something bothered me.
Under most of the causes of the disease cases, I read about were the words, ‘aetiology unknown,’ meaning that doctors did not know what caused them. That was odd. If modern medicine was so great why could it not prevent disease by now? It was because they did not know what caused it. So they treat the physical symptoms which often makes patients sicker, but hospitals make money from the “medicines” they provide. Follow the money trail. I became very disillusioned with medicine as a career, so I went into music.
I soon met and married a guy who seemed as bright as he was attractive (‘seemed’ being the operative word here) and we quickly got pregnant with our first child, but sadly he had a congenital disorder which left him unable to process calcium. He was born by planned section and passed away before I got to hold him. The doctors and nurses were lovely, but we were living in Dublin at the time and frankly, everyone is lovely in Dublin. We were soon pregnant again, but I was quite dim as I did not think to question the accepted views on pregnancy and childbirth, so just went along with the doctors.
I went a week overdue and arrived at the hospital in early labour. I was then induced and ended up having another Caesarean Section, as my body was nowhere near ready. Plus the hospital had fed me scare stories as I had a previous section, so I just gave in. A beautiful baby girl soon followed by DS2, a planned third section two years later and DS3 less than 12 months after his brother! He was a surprise, though we felt very lucky.
The doctors had tried to push me into getting my tubes clipped after DS2, but I refused. My husband had promised me a tummy tuck after we had completed our family as I had stretched terribly after DS1 as I was full of fluid because of his illness. I looked like I had triplets, so my stomach was a mess. I had them tied during my section with DS3. After the operation, the doctor said that there was a lot of swelling on my tubes and she was worried the clips might come off in time. I just looked at her, holding my dear new son – through that “wonderful” haze of narcotic drugs they give you after a section, the ones that make your face swell and make you forget your name – and nodded stupidly. She didn’t offer any follow-up and frankly, I was too out of it to care. I had my tummy tuck eight months later.
Fast forward seven years to September 2012 and I had divorced 4 years earlier and remarried. I was doing quite well as a musician and working hard at my Open University maths degree. I had even worked part-time as an Afro hair model, all thanks to my tummy tuck. The very last thing on my mind was pregnancy or babies as I had my tubes tied and my new husband, though childless, was a good ten years older, and at 48 he was happy enough being a stepdad to my three which was just fine with me.
Until my cycle was a week late.
Can you have pregnancy symptoms and not be pregnant?
I remember it so well as I am NEVER late unless I was getting pregnant. But of course, I could not be a pregnant woman. When it finally arrived, it was a good two days shorter. That was odd, but I thought maybe it was pre-menopause as I was 36.
At the end of October, I started having really painful breasts that swelled and morning sickness! I had been a size 8 to 10 for seven years but suddenly I had a small potbelly. So I cut out all carbs, hoping to lose the weight.
Has anyone had a negative pregnancy test but feel movement?
Had a light cycle like clockwork in October and November, then one night in December I was sitting on the sofa with DH and something MOVED in my lower stomach. I actually shouted OW! It was such a shock and I’m sorry but after four full-term pregnancies, I know what a baby moving feels like.
How could I be pregnant if my tubes were clipped and I had been getting my cycle, albeit 2 days shorter?! So I took a pregnancy test and it was negative. And I had never had false pregnancies before. I was relieved, my pregnancy tests had always been strong positives a few days after a missed cycle, so I could not be pregnant. I had a negative pregnancy test but was feeling movement. The sickness continued. After much internet searching, I realised that, yes, some women experiencing spotting even if they didn’t have a rare condition was normal during pregnancy, a bit like a normal cycle each month. Also negative pregnancy tests are never 100% accurate despite taking 8 negative pregnancy tests. I hadn’t come across false negative pregnancy test stories before, so I did the next logical thing. I bought a Doppler*.
If the baby was big enough to move, I would find its heartbeat. If not I’d just send it back to Amazon Prime – the Doppler,* not the baby :-). Before it arrived, I took a few more tests and sure enough I had two faint positives. I could not believe it! I know a line is a line as long as it has colour in it.
As soon as I got the Doppler* I used it along with the tiny gel, and sure enough, the sound of galloping horses, unmistakable if you have ever heard it, and a readout of 136! That was SO not my heartbeat. To make sure I took my pulse with my iPod and it was 72. As I was not great with the Doppler at first, I’d often lose his heartbeat, but I could clearly hear him swimming and kicking /punching the Doppler! I must have been around 3 months pregnant by then, and these definitely did not feel like phantom pregnancy kicks, but it was hard to tell without a dating scan and a cycle each month. Has anyone had a negative pregnancy test at 12 weeks pregnant? I know that I did not sleep with my husband after October, as I suspected pregnancy and the monthly spotting/cycles made me nervous.
My husband, however, could not believe that I was pregnant as my tubes had been clipped and my belly was so tiny but that was because of the tummy tuck. Either way, he said unless he saw the baby on a scan he could not believe it. I found that stressful, but I understood so the next time I had my light cycle I went to A&E with my Doppler*, saying I was pregnant and spotting. I knew they would scan me and DH would see his baby and we could start talking about baby names. I was very excited! This was to be the beginning of the real nightmare, I’d say pure hell that would be the rest of my pregnancy all thanks to the good old British NHS.
They said they could not see a baby on the scan. They did a urine test, and it was, of course, negative.
I got out my Doppler,* applied my gel feeling the pitying eyes of the doctors, and there was his heartbeat, 141, but I kept losing it. One doctor grabbed my wrist and said it was my heartbeat?!
Can a tilted uterus cause a negative pregnancy test?
Wait. I used to work in a gym. If my heartbeat was 141 I would be out of breath and sweating, having just run around the block perhaps, which of course I had not. How could the doctor think my heartbeat was 141?! We left speechless. Are doctors really that stupid?
I had had terrible abdominal adhesions and scarring with each section; it took over an hour to cut in to get my last baby out, I also had scarring from the tummy tuck. The tummy tuck made me carry very high and towards my back, all basic knowledge for anyone who gets pregnant after a tummy tuck. I also knew that I had a tipped uterus. Can a tilted uterus cause a negative pregnancy test? So although I was around five months and baby should have been seen, they could not explain the movement, my growing tummy the few positive tests and why my heartbeat was 141 without breaking a sweat!
The next month was a blur of us going back to the doctors asking for help and worrying that maybe the baby was an abdominal pregnancy. More research on pregnancy tests showed me that the Hook effect when you have too much HCG can cause a false negative on urine and blood tests. The sample has to be diluted by titration to obtain a true positive. The first time I tried this I got a strong BFP within seconds! I took the test to my GP and explained. He said that he had never heard of the Hook effect and there was no baby on the A&E scan. Meanwhile, I paid for two more scans, both said no baby, but no cysts cancers, tumours, nothing to explain my pregnant looking tummy. All organs looked normal. One doctor actually took pity and did my Doppler himself, found babies heartbeat, and I felt it kick. How can this be phantom baby kicks? I went “Oh!” He was actually chasing the baby around my tummy! I said, “That’s a baby, right, it just kicked me?” He said “No way to tell without a scan,” so I ordered another.
Has anyone had a negative pregnancy test and been pregnant?
I kept getting negative pregnancy tests. One could not see clearly in the pelvic scan as it said my bladder was still full after emptying it, nothing on the internal scan but I now know your bladder has to be completely empty for that, which it was not, and that after 3 months the uterus cannot be seen clearly with an ultrasound if you carry high and I was, as I would often feel the baby in my ribs from four months! I still felt movement, my children always felt it whilst sitting on my lap, and my Doppler, along with a finger pulse I had brought, showed 127 to 150 while my pulse was always less than 80. Nobody has two different heartbeats!
My blood pressure started getting high due through all the stress from the doctors, I’m sure, so I brought a BP cuff to monitor it. Brewer was a smart guy, so I kept away from doctors, drank more water, and ate more protein and lots of salt. Of course, my BP was perfect again within less than a week. I had no swelling. (Salt is vital for preeclampsia, high BP, and swelling prevention in pregnancy but doctors won’t tell you this.)
I soon realised that it was actually safer to have a normal birth rather than another section bringing me up to five. A book about VBAC called ‘Silent Knife,’ became my bible as did, ‘Unassisted Childbirth,’ by Laura Stanly, and my favourite, ‘Come Gently Sweet Lucinda,’ by Pat Carter, a woman in the 50s who had all seven of her children at home, unassisted, with no pain and hardly any bleeding! She became my hero and seemed even feistier than I was (if that’s possible). I must have read over 20 books on childbirth and countless VBAC stories online. I also found the real-life medical show, ‘I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,’ a great help as these pregnant women like me had shorter cycles throughout negative pregnancy tests, but they had a real pregnancy because suddenly they had their babies as they had not trusted their instincts over medical opinion. 99.9% of mums and babies were fine and labour was normally less than a few hours. No five hour “pushing stage” flat on your back, increasing your blood loss and increasing the chance of tearing. These babies were born in less than five pushes. “Yes, but it’s so much safer to give birth in a hospital!” No, it’s not. Doctors cause most of the problems that occur in labour, from Pectin to Epes, making you stay flat on your back which all contribute to a distressed baby. Then they “save” the baby with a section when all they have done is to fix, albeit rather brutally, the problems they have, in fact, created. But I digress…
Despite what I was learning, it was a very lonely time, and I had zero support. We had just moved to a new town; I knew no one, and my DH believed the doctors, not my Doppler or my books. He thought I was crazy. We really almost split up. So I stopped talking about it and brought nothing for the baby. I felt guilty even going into Mothercare. I felt like a fraud. The medical “professions” for lack of basic common sense completely robbed me of enjoying my pregnancy. My, how the medical system has brainwashed us! 60 years ago pregnancy was diagnosed with the detection of the baby’s heartbeat before that movement felt by the mother and seen by others. Today if we don’t have 21 positive pregnancy tests, 3 of them blood and a clear ultrasound picture, we are not pregnant and if we do not accept this from the great God, I mean doctor, we are clearly psychotic.
I thought I was due in June but only had a few cramps. July they were every night, mainly back labour, with pain going down my legs but nothing I could not handle. I had long since got my birth supplies but DH thought I was mad wanting to have it alone with no medical help at home, so after weeks of arguing I went back to the doctor for him. I looked at least 8 months, was small everywhere else, but I was in fact in pre-labour. She ordered loads of blood tests. I told her about the movement growing tummy, and didn’t bring the Doppler. She didn’t even order a blood pregnancy test.
She ordered “one last” scan like she was doing me a favour. By then I knew that my uterus was inverted and stuck to my small bowel. I also knew from basic physics that ultrasound waves cannot penetrate the bowel unless it’s turned very low, 3mhz or less. Normal fetal ultrasounds are at 15 MHz or more. I always heard baby on the Doppler as its only 1 MHz, but again doctors would not listen to this.
As my small bowel was in front of my uterus, you could only feel it if I lay on my side. I asked the tech to please feel my tummy at the side as there was a huge mass extending from my pelvis up under my ribcage so if he saw nothing on the scan he would be wrong but he refused to say he wasn’t a doctor?! I was a few weeks from giving birth and they saw no baby on the scan, only a watery cervix. Dah, that’s normal just before labour. Last GP visit and most humiliating of all: Bloods came back perfect. No hormone problems, no reason for my pregnant belly. I tried to do my Doppler and finger pulse as the GP refused to do it and ignored me while I was trying. She said it was just weight gain, and I needed to see a shrink as the pregnancy was in my head. I laughed in utter shock! I had had contractions on and off for weeks by then, I’d even lost bits of the show but I might as well have been saying, “twinkle twinkle,” for all the good it did. I was not rude, I did not even threaten to sue. I remember saying that if the baby could not be born normally as I was fearing as I was at least 43 weeks by then, that we could both die as if god forbid, he died inside me and doctors wouldn’t help I would become very sick. She said it wouldn’t happen as I was not pregnant. She said it very slowly as if I were four years old.
So we left. DH believed me by then, he was being more than supportive. He works for himself and his work was really beginning to suffer as he was constantly worrying about me. The children were great, I wore very baggy clothes. We just told them mummy was having a baby, but we were not sure when.
Can dehydration cause a false negative pregnancy test?
Mid-July the contractions got stronger, I had eaten little all day, and it was boiling. I suddenly shook and started being sick. I was sick 7 times in an hour. My vision became blurred like a migraine. I knew it was dehydration, I could hardly speak! DH called the ambulance, I somehow told them I was pregnant but doctors said that I was not. I did my Doppler as they took my pulse, the guy said, “That is a different heartbeat from your own but I can’t diagnose a baby?!” I didn’t care I just wanted to get a shot to stop the sickness. At A&E the back labour continued and I could not sit still. I got the shot. They did a scan and saw nothing. I had brought my Doppler but no gel. They had wiped it off from the 30-second scan. I begged them to give me gel, so I could prove the baby’s heartbeat, but they refused. They said it would “enforce my delusion” and gave me painkillers. I could not walk as the back labour was that bad, but they sent me home. I mean, you could not make it up!
They had given me Codeine, which I later found out was very dangerous during labour. My labour stopped in the morning.
The next few weeks were the worst of my life. I sent my three to stay with their dad for the holidays as felt I was waiting to die. As the labour would stop and start I was convinced he couldn’t get out, would die inside and I would follow him due to blood poisoning. If the doctors would not help me when I went in with early labour how would they help me if I lost him? If there was suddenly no sound on the Doppler at all?
All I could do was pray. Doctors were idiots. They had more than proved that. Now it was on my medical records that I had a phantom pregnancy yet WebMD stated a phantom pregnancy (otherwise known as a ghost pregnancy, hysterical pregnancy, or pseudocyesis) could be ruled out when a fetal heartbeat was heard separate from the mothers. I could prove that with my own Doppler and finger pulse, but they refused to listen! It was such a dark and frightening time.
What is a phantom pregnancy if I had a baby?
But joy cometh in the morning.
Early August 12, 2013, when I was at least 47 weeks pregnant, I had frankly lost count, I woke to strong cramp-like tightening. I sat up, and my water broke in a trickle! I rushed to the bathroom, luckily DH was asleep. It all happened so quickly. Whilst on the toilet, my water pouring, I felt a huge shift inside as if the baby was ready to launch! My body seemed to take over and within 6 pushes he was out and in my arms! I could not believe it! It was already warm, at 6.35, when he was born but DH found me shaking like a leaf in shock I think, clutching my beautiful new baby boy! He did not cry but was looking around and was a healthy pink with lots of dark wavy hair.
The rest is a blur. I remember DH putting a blanket around us, baby going for the breast, the relief when mild contractions brought the placenta out which we put in a bowl and DH carried it while I carried the baby to the bedroom. We did not cut the cord. Partly as it’s safer for baby and partly as I knew the ambulance guys would have to cut it as if not I was convinced the hospital would think I had stolen the baby as I had been there how many times and they had said the baby I had just delivered after 4 sections was a fake pregnancy! You can never be too careful with these people.
The look on the l&d staff’s face was almost comical. I refused to let them take him to “examine” as he was obviously fine and fed for almost an hour before we called the ambulance. I made them examine him in front of me. Some consultant came to personally apologise to us. My DH was gracious, he was just so happy with his baby son, but I told the doctor, “save it for our solicitors”.
We left after an hour, and I could not stop smiling. I felt great!
Many women have cryptic pregnancies. I was one of the lucky ones but many, mainly because of the abusive way doctors treat and disregard them, are not so lucky. To share my news, full story and what I have learned, I created a Yahoo! Group called Pregnant but negative pregnancy tests.
We are suing all of those doctors for medical negligence.
Had anyone had negative pregnancy tests and been pregnant?
If you experience any conditions that mimic pregnancy symptoms, but you have received a negative pregnancy test, or have phantom pregnancy symptoms, always consult your medical professional. For support, or if you have been pregnant and had negative pregnancy test stories, visit Cristal Lujan’s Facebook group here for more information on Phantom Pregnancy cases.
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