Top 10 reasons why women don't know they are pregnant:
•Fetus is small, inactive and/or carried toward the back of the womb, so that motion and kicking aren't easily detected from outside the mother's body. Some women believe fetal movements are just irregular or strong digestive activity.
•Recent previous childbirth. Many women believe they cannot get pregnant right after giving birth or while they are breast feeding. The truth is, some women ovulate and can become pregnant within the very first days after giving birth.
• Dieting. Women who are very active and watch their weight religiously may crank up their fitness routine or begin dieting when they notice a weight gain. Because of this, they may not gain weight as their pregnancy progresses.
•Stressful jobs, family and personal lives contribute to irregular periods and may cause women not to pay attention to their menstrual cycle or to chalk up missing periods to stress.
•Fetus is mistaken for a tumor or cyst. In some cases, particularly when a woman has a history of endometriosis, fibroid cysts or other tumors of the reproductive system, a fetus can be mistaken for a new or recurring tumor.
•Obesity. Carrying a lot of excess weight can disguise the “baby bump.” Depending on how a woman's body deposits fat, she may have looked “a little bit pregnant” in the past, and neither she nor others notice the extra bulk of a fetus.
•Sloppy use of birth control. Many women are certain they could not be pregnant because they use birth control. However, all birth control methods have a failure rate, and the chance of pregnancy goes up exponentially if birth control methods are not used exactly as indicated.
•Breakthrough bleeding. Some women continue to have periodlike bleeding throughout their pregnancy; it may be lighter or irregular or even coincide with a woman's usual “time of the month.” These pseudo-periods can be enough to convince a woman that she's not pregnant.
•Negative home pregnancy test. Home pregnancy tests aren't foolproof. Whether taken or read incorrectly, or simply giving a false reading, once a woman has tested negative for pregnancy at home, she may simply rule it out.
• History of irregular cycles and/or infertility. Not being able to get pregnant in the past, a history of missing or irregular periods and/or being close to menopause can all fool a woman into thinking she couldn't be pregnant.
When 31-year-old Candace Brown developed severe abdominal pain last weekend, she thought she might have the flu.
Turns out she was in labor, and a few hours later gave birth to a 5-pound, 6-ounce son, David Brown Jr.
“I'm really excited, but totally surprised,” said Brown, who lives with her husband, David, in Bedford. “I sure wasn't expecting this.”
A confluence of several factors conspired to keep her in the dark about her condition. She didn't experience morning sickness, feel the baby move or have any food cravings or contractions.
“My menstrual cycle has been messed up, off and on, ever since I gave birth to my daughter (Harmony) nearly 11 years ago, so the fact that I missed some cycles didn't make me wonder,” she said. “I didn't notice gaining any weight, either. I kept wearing the same clothes I've always worn.”
Brown said she woke up at 6 a.m. Saturday with stabbing stomach pain. She took a bath and the pain subsided enough for her and David to drive into town to do some errands.
“But then the pain came back and got worse and worse — I was hollering every time my husband hit a bump in the road,” she said. “About 12:30 in the afternoon, he drove me straight to (IU Health Bedford Hospital).”
Doctors there determined she was in labor, and transported her by ambulance to St. Vincent Dunn Hospital, where the baby was born via emergency cesarean section.
“The baby was distressed, and I was so stressed I couldn't push,” Brown said. “That's why they had to do the C-section right away.”
At 4:04 p.m., she gave birth to an auburn-haired, blue-eyed son.
“I can't wait to get home,” Brown said Monday from her hospital room. “I think family members are trying to get things for us — like baby clothes and a crib and a changing table.”
So-called “stealth moms” like Brown are more common than you might think. Bloomington obstetrician/gynecologist Lillette Wood, who works for IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians Women's Health, said during her 25 years of practice she has delivered eight babies to women who had no idea they were pregnant until shortly before delivering.
“In some cases, there may have been a bit of denial at play, but I honestly believe they did not know they were pregnant,” she said. “Most of them presented to the student health center or hospital ER complaining of pain and thinking it was a bladder infection or severe constipation.”
Wood said none of the eight women was obese.
“They ranged in age from a 16-year-old who was playing softball with horrible cramps just before coming to the hospital, and the oldest was 38,” she said. “None of them had any learning impairments.”
Wood said after the mothers delivered their babies, they said such things as, “I wondered why I was eating so healthfully and still gaining weight,” or “Now I know why I was having those incredible rumblings in my stomach.”
In recent years, two other local stealth moms have gone public. In the spring of 2009, 23-year-old Shana Hupp was sitting on the toilet, feeling ill. Moments later, the Bloomington woman gave birth to a 7-pound, 3-ounce boy, who slid out of her uterus into the toilet bowl.
Two weeks earlier Hupp had watched a popular TLC show called “I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant” featuring moms who didn't realize they were pregnant until they gave birth.
“I remember thinking to myself, 'How in the world can a woman not realize she's pregnant?'” Hupp said at the time. “Now I'm one of those women.”
Hupp said she and her boyfriend named the baby Jexsen, rejecting Hupp's aunt's playful suggestion that they name him “Johnny.”
“I hadn't had my period for a very long time because of the type of birth control I was using, so that was not a clue,” she said in 2009. “I had gained about 20 pounds over the past 10 months, but I'd gained it all over — not just in my belly. I thought I had just been eating too much junk food.”
Hupp said she never experienced morning sickness; and unlike many expectant moms, she never felt Jexsen moving inside her womb.
“I know it's hard for people to understand, but I really had no idea,” she said.
More recently, in February 2013, Mitchell librarian Jamie Jones went to the hospital with knifing pains in her abdomen. According to reporter Carol Johnson of the Bedford Times-Mail, when the doctor told Jones she was in labor, Jones said, “No, I'm not.”
“Yes, you are,” the doctor insisted.
Hours later she delivered a 7-pound, 3-ounce boy named Logan Matthew Pelfrey at IU Health Bloomington Hospital.
“I didn't gain any weight, but I couldn't lose any weight either,” she told the Times-Mail, describing her pregnancy. “My boyfriend and I decided we were going to lose weight together, and I was getting frustrated because I couldn't lose any weight.”
Jones said she felt no movement in her womb throughout her pregnancy.
“I didn't feel him move much,” she said. “And when I did, I thought it was gas.”