What is Cryptic Pregnancy and What Are the Signs?

Cryptic pregnancy is often a complex and misunderstood phenomenon. It refers to a person being unaware of their pregnancy until the later stages or even until delivery. So, if you’re wondering if you can be pregnant and not know, or if you’ve had a firsthand experience with cryptic pregnancy, keep reading as we explore the intricacies of cryptic pregnancy and discuss the possible causes, risk factors, symptoms and detection.

What Is Cryptic Pregnancy?

If you’re wondering if someone can be pregnant without any symptoms, particularly after an experience of your own, you might be keen to learn more about what cryptic pregnancy is. A cryptic pregnancy remains undetected or undiagnosed by the individual who is pregnant for a significant duration. So, how long can a cryptic pregnancy conceal itself, or how long can you be pregnant without knowing? A person might not realise they’re pregnant until the late stages of pregnancy; occasionally, a person doesn’t realise they’re pregnant until delivery or shortly before it takes place. This type of pregnancy may also be known as a hidden pregnancy or undiagnosed pregnancy. It's difficult to define precisely what constitutes a cryptic pregnancy, as the duration a person might experience being pregnant without knowing can differ from individual to individual. Nevertheless, many individuals realise they’re expecting after their first missed period, which might not occur until around 4 weeks pregnant, or they become aware when prompted by the onset of pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness, which typically starts at approximately 4 to 6 weeks. However, it’s crucial to be aware that every pregnancy is different, so the manner and timing in which you discover you're pregnant may differ from others.

How Common Is Cryptic Pregnancy?

Cryptic pregnancies are uncommon; however, because there’s no exact definition or timeline for cryptic pregnancy, there are no firm statistics on how common this type of unknown or undiagnosed pregnancy is.


Hidden Signs and Symptoms of Cryptic Pregnancy

Symptoms commonly associated with cryptic pregnancy are similar to those in a regular pregnancy, including nausea, fatigue and breast tenderness. But when it comes to cryptic pregnancy, it’s natural to wonder, ‘Can you be pregnant with no symptoms?’ or ‘Can the signs of pregnancy be hidden?” In any pregnancy, an individual might not notice any distinct early signs of pregnancy; in cryptic pregnancies, these symptoms might be missing or extremely subtle, often overlooked for a considerable duration. The individual who is pregnant may also fail to recognise that the symptoms they are experiencing are related to pregnancy. Some early signs of pregnancy could include the following:

Every pregnancy is unique, and not everyone experiences these early signs of pregnancy. As your pregnancy progresses, especially into the second trimester, you may experience more weight gain and possibly notice that a bump is starting to show. Belly size varies from person to person during pregnancy, which is why, in cryptic pregnancies, some people may not notice a bump or may attribute it to general weight gain or bloating.

Take a look at our visual below, which highlights some common signs of pregnancy. If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms and you suspect you may be pregnant, contact your GP to confirm.

Do You Still Get Your Period with Cryptic Pregnancy?

Menstruation, by definition, is the blood that’s discharged from the uterus if a pregnancy does not occur, so no, you won’t get your period during any type of pregnancy, including cryptic pregnancy. If you didn't know you were pregnant because you were getting what you thought was your period every month, that flow of blood may have been something else. Some pregnant people may experience period-like bleeding, such as spotting due to implantation bleeding or bleeding that's related to hormonal changes or other complications. Contact your GP if you experience unusual bleeding.


Pregnancy Symptoms
Pregnancy Warning Signs You Should Not Ignore

What Causes a Cryptic Pregnancy?

Several factors may contribute to a pregnancy going unnoticed for a longer time. Here are some possible scenarios that could result in a cryptic pregnancy:

  • Having irregular periods may make it difficult to track changes in menstrual cycles and to recognize pregnancy symptoms.

  • Experiencing no typical pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness or breast tenderness, or thinking that the symptoms they do have are linked to something else, such as nausea from eating a certain food or fatigue due to a busy lifestyle or lack of sleep, can lead to a situation where one might be pregnant without knowing.

  • Receiving false negative pregnancy test results – meaning the test says you’re not pregnant when you actually are – can also play a role in cryptic pregnancy. Sometimes, a test may not accurately detect pregnancy hormones, leading to a delayed or missed diagnosis. False negatives often occur if a test is taken too early in pregnancy or is taken incorrectly. To be sure of your result, take another test after your missed period or visit your GP.

  • Experiencing lifestyle factors such as stress, extreme weight loss or gain, and certain medications could potentially contribute to the confusion surrounding cryptic pregnancy.

  • Recently giving birth or using birth control, being diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or perimenopause, or never having been pregnant before may all lead to mistaken pregnancy symptoms or the belief that you can’t get pregnant.

How to Detect a Cryptic Pregnancy

A cryptic pregnancy can often go undetected for months, or even up until labour begins, due to factors such as subtle symptoms and inaccurate home pregnancy tests. A cryptic pregnancy can be detected or diagnosed through an ultrasound, blood test or urine test. If you are experiencing any symptoms of pregnancy, even if your home pregnancy test is negative, it’s important to consider the possibility of a cryptic pregnancy. This is a situation where you could be pregnant without knowing. To ensure your health and well-being, contact your GP for a diagnosis.

Understanding Cryptic Pregnancy Concerns

Depending on when you realise that you're pregnant and start seeing your GP or midwife, the antenatal care you receive with a cryptic pregnancy may be affected. It’s also possible that you might continue unhealthy habits, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, and not adjust your lifestyle accordingly. Antenatal care generally involves examinations, ultrasounds and various tests to help make sure that you and your baby are healthy and safe. Based on your stage of pregnancy, your GP and midwife will endeavour to offer you the best treatment and antenatal care possible once you discover you're pregnant.


Just like a regular pregnancy, a cryptic pregnancy lasts for around 40 weeks, dating from the first day of the last menstrual period. The difference is that the pregnant person may not be aware of their pregnancy until late into the term or even until delivery.

The Bottom Line

Cryptic pregnancy is a complex condition in which a pregnant person remains unaware of being pregnant until well into pregnancy or even until delivery. Understanding its characteristics, symptoms and potential causes can help foster earlier detection and also help in providing appropriate healthcare for cryptic pregnancies.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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