Woman Pregnant with 12 Babies a Hoax
An article in Wednesday’s U.K. Daily Telegraph reported on a 34-year-old Tunisian woman claiming to be pregnant with 12 babies – six boys and six girls. The woman, it said, conceived 12 babies after fertility treatments following multiple miscarriages.
A few days later, the Telegraph reported that an investigation by the Tunisian Health Ministry revealed that not only is the woman not pregnant with duodecaplets – she’s probably not even pregnant at all.
The article quoted a government spokesperson saying: “She’s claiming to be nine months pregnant with six boys and six girls, but there’s absolutely nothing about her appearance which indicates this.”
A doctor at the only hospital in her town said the woman had never been in their care. The woman refused a physical examination and has now disappeared.
The hoax comes on the heels of Nadya Suleman earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in media deals following her birth of octuplets. The Bellflower, California mom of 14 holds the record for the most live births at any one time.
Why Would She Do It?
While the Tunisian woman’s hoax was most likely financially motivated, there is a rare psychological disorder in which women believe they are pregnant. Women suffering from the disorder, pseudocyesis (false pregnancy), often show symptoms of pregnancy, such as amennorrhoea, morning sickness, tender breasts and a distended abdomen. Some women may feel quickening, or fetal movement. (This article gives a more broad description of the signs of pregnancy).
“Can’t Fool Science”
The incidence of false pregnancy has decreased dramatically in the U.S. since the 1940s, when there was 1 false pregnancy for every 250 actual pregnancies. Now, the incidence is approximately one to six cases of pseudocyesis for every 22,000 births.
More advanced diagnostic techniques for pregnancy make it harder for a woman’s body to “fool itself” into believing she is pregnant. Most cases of pseudocyesis are cured by using an ultrasound to prove to the woman she is not pregnant. In the face of such irrefutable medical proof, most women will become convinced and the symptoms will subside.
However, the underlying cause of the disorder still exists and the woman should be treated by psychotherapy. Doctors aren’t sure what causes the disorder, but an intense desire for a baby or, alternatively, a profound fear of pregnancy, may create the symptoms.
Pseudocyesis, while rare, makes for good drama and has been featured on a number of T.V. shows, including CSI: Crime Scene. Approximately 18 % of women suffering pseudocyesis are actually diagnosed by a doctor as pregnant.
In the absence of any symptoms in the Tunisian woman, known as AF, it would seem her “pregnancy” was a poorly-contrived hoax rather than an actual psychological disorder. Very sad.