The past few days have been characterized by discussions around Josephine Panyin Mensah, a resident in Takoradi who apparently faked pregnancy and staged kidnapping to avert family troubles.
Josephine who had been reported missing was discovered by a carpenter who said she was found without a baby and traumatized.
During the period when she went missing, her family claimed the alleged kidnappers had called to demand for ransom among other things. It only emerged after her reappearance and subsequent investigations that, she was never pregnant and that it was merely an act.
She confirmed and stated her reasons as fear of being stigmatized by family for losing her 4-month-old pregnancy before the incident.
Whilst police investigate her, Vice President of the Psychological Association of Ghana, Dr. Ruth Owusu-Antwi, has called for psychological therapy for Josephine whom she believes may have been going through some mental stress, reason for her actions.
Speaking to CitiTV in an interview, she explained that Pseudocyesis which is a rare clinical syndrome that makes some women believe they are pregnant may have been a contributing factor.
Investigations are not concluded yet and a decision has not yet been made on what the consequences of Josephine’s actions could be but in light of this, we put together this piece which details what pseudocyesis is and everything else we need to know about it.
What it is:
The American Pregnancy Association defines Pseudocyesis as the medical term for a false pregnancy or what some people refer to as a phantom pregnancy.
It is a rare condition in which a person has a false belief of being pregnant though they are not. This feeling is usually associated with all the pregnancy-related changes and symptoms including weight gain, nausea and backache.
Though there have not been any specifically stated causes for this condition, medical experts say it is a psychosomatic condition mostly triggered by psychological factors that may prompt certain hormones and trick the body into believing it is pregnant.
These may include an intense desire to become pregnant after miscarriage or pregnancy loss, depression, a history of infertility, and women with a background of trauma, sexual abuse or spousal abuse.
According to the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, persons with pseudocyesis may experience:
• an interruption in their menstrual cycle
• changes in appetite
• weight gain
• frequent urination
• changes in skin or colour
• a sensation of fetal movement
• breast enlargement or secretion and in some cases and
• abdominal swelling or distention and labour pain.
These symptoms may persist from a few weeks to beyond 9 months.
Tests that are done to confirm pregnancy are what will be done for a woman suspected to be going through pseudocyesis. These include: ultrasound scans or a pregnancy test will be done. Urine tests may also be done to verify findings.
Referral for psychiatric evaluation is very important for patients with this condition. This will however be in cases where patients still insist on pregnancy even after medical tests prove they are not pregnant. A psychiatrist or psychologist should be able to help.