False pregnancy is a condition that captures the imagination. So many references to it appear in novels and stories that you might suppose it is common. Actually, it is rare. There are many women who skip a period and wonder whether they arc pregnant. If pregnancy does not materialize, they have merely skipped a period for some reason and are not examples of ineudoc•years, the medical term for false pregnancy. In bona fide false pregnancy the woman will skip several periods and experience many of the symptoms of pregnancy. She may even swear that she can feel the baby kicking.
She will often gain some weight and even look pregnant. The breasts may enlarge, and she may complain of minor discomforts characteristic of pregnancy. Nevertheless, repeated examination will disclose that the uterus is not growing. Persistently negative tests for pregnancy confirm the diagnosis. It is generally believed that false pregnancies are manifestations of emotional disturbance.
For many of the women in this condition, pregnancy is either highly desired or greatly feared. Sometimes, when tests have proved that the woman is not pregnant, she will become very resentful of the doctor. It is not unusual, under these circumstances, to have a big blowup in the clinic or doctor’s office. Finally convinced. some of these women begin to menstruate almost immediately.
These are fleshy growths within or on the uterine wall. In pregnancy, fibroids are encountered somewhat more frequently in older mothers and in those of die Negro race. While there are many possibilities for complications in pregnancy and labor, the great majority of women with these common benign tumors go through delivery without incident. Most are unaware that they have tumors. Fibroid tumors grow in pregnancy.
This growth is due to the action of pregnancy hormones. (A similar growth. incidentally, is seen in the fibroid tumors of women taking birth control pills.) Some fibroids enlarge to such an extent that their limited blood supply is no longer able to sustain them. The tumor then undergoes degeneration. It is painful and tender and may be confused with other conditions of pregnancy causing abdominal pain and tenderness. In pregnancy it is not wise to remove a degenerating fibroid. After a few days the symptoms subside. Fibroid tumors may obstruct labor. Delivery by Caesarean section then becomes mandatory. Fibroid tumors are usually not removed at the time of Caesarean section because most often they regress spontane. ously after delivery.
Headaches in pregnancy are common. There is usually no cause for alarm, especially in the early months. A headache may he one of the signs of the severe toxemia of pregnancy, but this condition rarely occurs before the last three months. When it does occur, there are usually other symptoms to reinforce the diagnosis. But if you should develop a severe, unremitting headache in the final three months of pregnancy, notify your doctor without delay. Headaches in early pregnancy arc often of the sinus type, in the frontal region over the eyes.
Sinus headaches characteristically are aggravated by bending over, as you would to tie your shoe or pick up something. The nasal congestion common in pregnancy tends to prevent proper draining of the sinuses, ‘and headaches are frequent. A hot moist Turkish towel applied over the forehead and eyes is one of the most effective remedies. Another type of benign headache in pregnancy is the simple tension
headache. These headaches radiate from the back of the neck into the back of the head. Rest and relaxation are the best cure.
Aspirin can be taken without danger in pregnancy if ordinary doses arc used. A couple of aspirin tablets two or three times a day are harmless. If the headaches are so severe or persistent that you need more aspirin than this, you should be in touch with your doctor. Migraine is one of the few conditions improved by pregnancy. It is the experience of the great majority of women who have been subject to migraine that they have fewer attacks in pregnancy, or none at all. If his patient complains of frequent migraine attacks in pregnancy, the doctor is inclined to wonder whether the diagnosis of migraine is correct.
Heartburn is a hard symptom to describe, but anyone who has experienced this discomfort beneath the breastbone needs no explanation. In pregnancy heartburn often occurs when a nubbin of the stomach is pushed up through the diaphragm. This can happen any time after the fourth month. Since position has a lot to do with heartburn, the dis-comfort is often worse at night or when you lie down to rest. Heartburn is not a symptom of serious disease.
Though pregnant women may suffer much discomfort from it, they invariably are relieved within twenty four to forty.eight hours after delivery. The expectant mother with heartburn should be on a bland diet. Foods that trigger it should be avoided. Coffee is a frequent offender. It is better to eat five or six small meals daily than three larger ones. It is wise to eat lightly in the evening.
The antacid preparations often prescribed for ulcer patients an afford relief in many cases of heartburn in pregnancy. Avoid baking soda or Alka-Seltzer; these contain sodium. Elevation of the head of the bed or propping oneself up on pillows at night are other simple measures worth trying if heartburn is severe.