Meet the women who believe they've been pregnant for years
IMAGINE a baby, kicking in your stomach. You can feel it, you know it's there - but no one else will believe you.
That's the reality for hundreds and thousands of women around the world.
Women who firmly believe that they are pregnant, even if there is no medical proof to back it up.
These women call their condition 'cryptic pregnancy' and find comfort in online support groups such as The Gilmour Foundation, a group that describes cryptic pregnancy as: "A pregnancy where there is no detectable hCG in the mother's system due to a hormonal imbalance, resulting in an extremely long gestation period, that is typically 3 to 5 years. Both urine and blood pregnancy tests will be negative during a cryptic pregnancy.
If the mother has a uterine abnormality, her ultrasounds will also be negative.
Due to the nature of cryptic pregnancy, many women do not realize that they are pregnant until delivery, but many are very aware that they are indeed pregnant."
Wait. Three to five years?
Yes, women who believe they are experiencing a cryptic pregnancy are often of the belief that their gestation period is different to that of a standard pregnancy and their pregnancy will stretch on for years without a birth.
Some women even document their 'pregnancy' journey on their own Facebook pages.
These pages and groups are filled with women documenting every moment of their journey.
he women post videos of the doppler results - including videos where a heartbeat can be heard.
Unfortunately, this is likely due to the fact that dopplers pick up other sounds in your body, including your larger arteries, gut noises and static.
Most dopplers that are sold for home use come with the disclaimer that they shouldn't be used in place of medical assessment.
Pregnant for three years with multiples Last year, a woman named Zona appeared on the Dr Phil show, telling him that she was '1000 percent sure' she was three years pregnant with multiples - despite the fact that she got her tubes tied at 20.
Zone tells Doctor Phil that she thinks her pregnancy may stretch on for many more years and the reason why it isn't showing up on ultrasounds is that it is in her second, or 'back uterus'.
"I actually got pregnant at 40, I was extremely shocked, I am still in shock. My belly has continued to grow for the three and a half years but it does grow at super low rates. My breasts are tender, my mood swings are super bad, I can be crying one minute, happy the next," she said on the show.
"When I go to a doctor I take a pregnancy test, of course, it does not show up either on blood or urine. They have also given me ultrasounds, they tell me all are negative. The doctors are wrong, I don't care what medical degree they have I am 1,000 percent certain that I am pregnant."
Now Zona says she isn't enjoying her extended pregnancy and has no reason to fake it.
"My family does not believe I am pregnant, it has torn my family apart. This is the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life, it's real and it's misery.
"I am sick and tired of being pregnant, I just want them out, I am done with this - I'm done, I'm done, I'm done, I'm done, I'm done with pregnancy. I don't want it anymore."
The evidence just isn't there
Dr Phil offered Zona and another woman who believed she was carrying a cryptic pregnancy to undergo an examination and ultrasound with an experienced obstetrician-gynaecologist. The results?
No signs of pregnancy were found on the ultrasound for either woman.
Unfortunately, Zona wouldn't accept the results.
"I'm disappointed in the examine," she tells the doctor, "I don't believe you were thorough enough and that's just my opinion."
She continues to believe she is carrying multiples and will not accept the blood work and ultrasounds that suggest otherwise.
So what's going on?
Well, a cryptic pregnancy has been documented in medical literature going back many decades, a literature review of cases of 'delusional pregnancy' published in the Indian Journal of Psychology concluded that: "one-fourth of the patients had developed delusion of pregnancy after the age of 50 years.
Possibly menopause and peri-menopause can enhance psychological stress and clinically significant psychiatric difficulties may develop during the life cycle's involutional phases."
They found that while these cases of false pregnancy were obviously most commonly found in women, there were cases of men who suffered the same delusion.
While it is not indicative of any specific mental illness the study concluded: "Delusion of pregnancy was encountered in a variety of psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, other psychotic disorder, mood disorders and organic brain disorder.
This suggests that the phenomenon is nosologically non-specific and attempts should be made to look for other symptoms and see whether syndromal criteria for a psychiatric disorder have been met."