Do women absorb the DNA of every man they have unprotected sex with?

Do women absorb the DNA of every man they have unprotected sex with?

I’ve been asked many times, mostly by worried pregnant mothers or potential baby fathers if a fetus’s DNA can be changed or effected by either another man’s semen while she is pregnant or from her sexual activities with previous partners.

The short answer is no.

There is a false belief that women absorb and retain the DNA of every man they have unprotected sex with. This belief has been spread through some articles, but stems from a 2012 research project that showed that the brains of some autopsied women had male DNA.  Some who heard this quickly jumped to the conclusion that they must have received this male DNA through sperm.

The truth is, this is called microchimerism and the explanation for the male Y chromosome being found in some female brains is not really that complex.

Pregnancy

When women become pregnant, they play host to another human with its own set of DNA. Some of this DNA gets absorbed through the placenta and remains with the woman for the rest of her life. If she has any male children then she will absorb some male DNA which explains why some of the women autopsied (aged 32 to 101) had male DNA in their brains even decades later.

The DNA a mother inherits from her child is often up to 10% of the free floating DNA in her blood stream. Often call foetal origin cells, they have also been found in the mothers skin and all major organ including the heart.

Blood Transfusions and Organ Transplants

When we receive blood transfusions or organ transplants, we are also receive some DNA from the donor. This is known as medical chimerism and is something the medical world has been aware of for a long time. If a woman receives a transfusion or transplant from a male, it is likely she will also absorb some male DNA.

Having an Older Male Sibling

If a woman has an older brother, the chances are her mother has absorbed some male DNA from him during her pregnancy and also passed it along to her daughter. This explains why some of the women autopsied who did not have any male children, blood transfusions or transplants, still had the presence male DNA.

Effects

Research suggests that having male DNA passed on to these women doesn’t affect them as far as femininity goes, but that it could have several beneficial effects:

  • Lower risk of some cancers
  • Longer life span
  • Better tolerance of successive pregnancies
  • Decrease risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Diminished symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

So while many women have the presence of male DNA, it’s not because they were having unprotected sex. They do not carry the DNA of ex-lovers and thankfully are not bonded to them for life, however, they will be bonded even on a cellular level with their children til death.

Study Links Shows Like 16 And Pregnant To A Drop in Teenage Pregnancy

Unhappy Baby and MotherThere have been times I’ve been critical of shows like 16 and Pregnant because I thought that they glamorize teenage pregnancy by exploiting the teenage girls on the show and even making celebrities out of some of them.

Having worked in a high school in the past with a fairly high rate of teenage pregnancy, I knew that teenage pregnancy wasn’t glamorise at all. All of the girls I worked with in the high school who became pregnant eventually dropped out. Some dropped out only to have another kid a year later.

In my article Young, Poor and Pregnant I discuss some of the downsides of programming like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, but a new study called “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing” which was written by Melissa S. Kearny of the University of Maryland and Phillip B. Levine from Wellesley College, found that 18 months after the shows introduction, teen birth rates actually dropped 5.7 percent in 2010. According the New York Times, that 5.7 drop is an estimated 20,000 teenage births prevented.

The study also showed that using Neilson ratings, in areas where the show was highly popular, the rates of teenage pregnancies declined the fastest.

During their study, the authors found that search engine searches and tweets about  birth control and abortion grew significantly after the show was introduced. While I have written about some of the negatives of the show, I was surprised and happy to see that it had benefits that show that teenage girls aren’t as brainwashed and reality TV obsessed as some of us adults like to think. In fact, the study shows that many teenage girls can look at shows like this and not glamorize it, but recognize that they don’t want their lives to be as complicated, crazy or hard as most of the teenage moms on the shows.

One of the benefits of shows about teenage mothers is that they discuss an issue that is often shied away from and more accurately show the true effects of being a teenage mom, better than any sex education class or most lectures could. No one is totally crediting shows about teenage moms as the sole reason for the decline in teenage pregnancy. The rate of teenage pregnancy has been on the decline over the last 20 years and things such as the recession also bring the birth rate down.

However, what the show does do is make it more real so that teens can see that real teenage motherhood may not be the fairytale that they may imagine it will be (“now he will stay with me”, “I’ll feel more loved and supported”, etc.).  These shows alone aren’t enough to continue to prevent teenage pregnancy. There still needs to be good sex education and parental guidance. One potential negative of the show is that in the study there was a trend for teenage girls who watched the show heavily to perceive the teenage mothers as having easier lives and still have time to be a kid, which usually isn’t the reality. For the most part,  the one thing we can take away from this study is that teenage girls are more capable of learning from other teenagers mistakes than we may have given them credit for in the face of so much reality TV where the bad girls are celebrated and consequences seem few and far between.

Teenage Girls And Older Men: What Every Parent Should Know

43347cc03a1a41c2bbb6389d7947f97fWorking with teenage girls, there’s a lot of things I worry about because the teenage years are so perplexing, especially with teenage girls who are often searching for a sense of belonging to the point that they are willing to starve themselves, cut themselves out of pain and shame, sleep with boys just to feel wanted, and sadly, even attempt to take their own lives when they feel as if they don’t and will never belong.

This search for belonging, often sends teenage girls into unhealthy relationships that further damage their self-esteem and often expose them to other damaging factors such as unprotected sex, drugs, alcohol and violence.

During the teenage years, young people are trying to come into their own and often rebel against their parents and other adults, which is why they often chose friends and relationships that their parents disapprove of, including dating older men.

I hate when I am working with a teenage girl and she tells me she is dating an older man, usually because I know that this relationship, while to her may be idyllic and dreamy, is more often a disaster waiting to happen on so many levels.

Recently a client of mine who is 17, started dating a 23 year old man, and while the age difference isn’t drastic, one has to think, what would a 23 year old man who could date anyone 18 and up, want with a 17 year old high school student? Did someone say sex? Of course they had a lot of that, often unprotected, but luckily she never got pregnant although she hasn’t gotten tested for any sexually transmitted diseases. I told her when she initially talked about him pursuing her, his reason was that there aren’t any girls 21 and up that were “cool”, that there just wasn’t something right about a man who should be on the verge of finishing college, dating someone who’s in high school.

I told her that had to say something about his motives, personality, etc., but of course she didn’t see this as a red flag, but was instead flattered that someone who could date anyone his age or older, chose to date her. After several months of bliss and sex, he started treating her badly and her moods were very erratic, varied by however they were doing at the moment. If they were good, she was happy, going to class, doing good. If he was ignoring her, she was depressed, missing class, consumed with anxiety.

Eventually he left her for a woman his own age and that should have been the end of it, but now she is talking about dating his OLDER brother who is married with a kid, but text messaged her one night at 3Am, “I think you are so sexy, and I’ve been fantasizing about you”, from his wive’s phone nonetheless. Once again, all bad signs, but she’s an emotional, hormonal, vulnerable, teenager trying to belong so she see’s this as another challenge.

Why Do Teenage Girls Date Older Men?

Some of the reasons include genuine chemistry. Chemistry doesn’t know have rigid age boundaries so there is a chance that there are genuine feelings there. Another reason includes greater financial and physical independence, which for a young teenage girl looking for independence, an escape from her family or surroundings, is very appealing. Also, older men are considered more mature and experienced in all aspects of life which is attractive to a young girl, especially one looking to escape her life.

The thing is, teenager girls often don’t realize just how unequal the relationship with an older man usually is. Usually the older man has more power simply from the fact that he is older, and they usually have more money and resources than the teenager or her friends. This takes her out of being equal, especially when it comes to making decisions, and because he is older, she will often get dictated to and assume that he is right or knows best. Also, because he will typically have more money than her and her peers, it will be easy for him to impress her by doing simple things such as taking her to the movies, a fastfood restaurant, picking her up from school or buying her a t-shirt or shoes.

Having an older boyfriend also becomes a status symbol, a way for the teenage girl to say that she is already grown-up and part of the adult world. She is no longer a child like her peers. Because of this, it may make it easier for her to start neglecting things like her peers and school work. After all, why should she worry about passing a chemistry test when her boyfriend is worried about paying his rent or losing his job. School and friends may start seeming childish in comparison to her boyfriend’s problems.

Teenage girls also often date older men to rebel against their parents, and the more the parents fight against it, the more likely the boyfriend is seen as an allie and will help begin to alienate her from her parents, under-minding their decisions and further breaking apart her support system, while strengthening his hold and isolating her.

Consequences of Dating Older Men

There are not only psychological risks involved with dating an older man and trying to fit into an adult world precociously, there are also dangers of being exposed to drugs, alcohol, abuse, and an increase rate of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Young teenage girls who contract sexually transmitted diseases often get them from older boyfriends. Older men usually have had more sexual experience that often include risky sexual behaviors. The young teenage girl is not likely to question his sexual behavior or health status, and even if she did, she is likely to take his word for it instead of asking him to go get tested with her.

Teenage girls who date older men are more likely to get pregnant than teenage girls who date same age males for several reasons:

  • Older men seem to expect the teenage girl to take responsibility for contraceptive and often will use none if not asked.
  • Teenage girls today are less likely to use birth control compared to women in the past.
  • Teenage girls may actually want to get pregnant for several reasons. See my post Young, Poor and Pregnant.
  • An older man may actually not care if he gets the younger girl pregnant or may do so on purpose for control.

One study done by the California Center for Health reports that the average age of the fathers who got a 12 year old pregnant was 19.7, and a 13 year old pregnant was 17.2.

What To Do If Your Teenage Daughter Is Dating An Older Man

First of all, don’t freak out. Doing so may just push your daughter further into his arms. Try to talk to your daughter, express your concerns. Let her know that you only have her best interests at heart. She may still rebel and insist on seeing him, so don’t be afraid to lay down and enforce rules while she is still under 18, living in your house and going to school. Most of these relationships usually fizzle out if the teenager is allowed to come into her own in a healthy way, but often not before she is scarred in someway. A lucky few end up in marriage, which is often proceeded by a child and continues with multiple children, poverty, physical and substance abuse.

Try talking to the boyfriend. Let him know that if he really cares about her, he will abide by your wishes since you only have her best interest in mind and he should too if he cares about her. Depending on the age of your daughter and the age of the man, it may be appropriate to get law enforcement involved. Most of the teenage girls I work with who are dating older men are seeking something they feel like they aren’t getting from home, and while it may seem impossible to please your ever changing and complex teenager, try to talk with her, listen to and understand her. Otherwise, she will search for and find someone or something else to attach herself too.

Abuse Reports And Pregnancy Scares: My Week In Review

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This week went by really fast, although it was tiresome and very busy, picking up where last week left off.

Last Friday I had to have a suicidal student Baker Acted (Florida’s statute for involuntary examination/hospitalization), with five minutes of school left, which meant I had to deal with law enforcement and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for two hours afterwards.

Not the best way to start my weekend.

This week wasn’t as dramatic, but I still had to call DCF on three cases for suspected physical abuse, suspected medical neglect and suspected sexual abuse.

I don’t know why, but I am still at times amazed at the amount of damage done to our kids at the hands of those who are supposed to love, support and watch over them.

Making DCF reports or Baker Acting a client is never the easiest thing to do. Often times clients are initially angry, or scared, but many times they are relieved to finally be getting help, and more often than not, after it’s all over with, they are grateful someone cared enough to get them help.

I even had a mother come in to try to assure me that her daughter is not being abused by her husband, but I tend to believe what her daughter is telling me and will support the daughter psychologically while DCF does their own investigation.

I also had three of my female clients this week tell me that they thought they were pregnant.

I always hate hearing this because I know the affect having a child can have on these inner-city young girls who have enough to overcome already.

Most of the times these young girls think that they can get pregnant and nothing in their lives will change. I remind them that every girl that was in my program last year that got pregnant have dropped out of school.

I was saddened also that these three young girls, all good and intelligent students, weren’t using protection and are potentially pregnant by guys that aren’t even their boyfriends.

It’s one thing to be pregnant by a boy who is supposed to be committed to them, but it’s another thing for a young girl to be pregnant by a boy who has no commitment to them at all.

“Hooking up” seems to be the thing with this generation, in which teens are more likely to have no-strings-attached, physical relationships that could include anything from kissing to intercourse.

Friends with benefits definitely seems to be more popular than actual dating, at least on the campus I work at.

These girls I am referring to, of course really like these boys and want to be with them in a monogamous relationship, but are willing to accept the friends with benefit role, which gives these boys no real reason to commit and give the girl what she truly wants, a relationship with a guy that cares for only her.

These young girls, as much as they would hate to admit it, aren’t emotionally prepared for no-strings attached sex as well as they think, which is one reason many of them are so angry, depressed, emotional and unhappy.

They are clueless about the connection between the body, the heart and the mind.

Luckily, so far one out of the three girls I mentioned has found out she is not pregnant, while the other two are too afraid to take pregnancy tests or go to their family doctor, so they are practicing the wait, see, and pray method.

Two of the girls asked me if I was mad at them (I’ve counseled them numerous times about self-esteem, self-respect, abstinence and using protection if they are going to be sexually active).

I told  them that I wasn’t mad and that I never get mad at them, because it’s true. I did admit to them that I was a bit disappointed in them, because that too is true.

I still care for them and support them unconditionally, even when I don’t like the decisions they’ve made..

Hopefully in the next few days, the other two girls will find out if they are pregnant or not so I can either help them learn to prevent this from happening again anytime soon, or help them prepare to be the best teenage mothers they can be.

Stress During Pregnancy and it’s Affects on the Unborn Child

I have two close friends who are both first time mothers to be and although both are in healthy relationships and are overall healthy individuals, both of them are incredibly stressed, so much to the point that they both at times get very dysthymic, have trouble eating, sleeping, being intimate, feeling attractive and are easily irritable. 

When asked what exactly they are stressed about, they both answered that they are worried about being good mothers, about being financially secure enough to properly take care of their child, how their child will change their lives and mostly, if their child will be healthy despite all the signs that they are having a normal, healthy pregnancy. 

I found that last part to be very interesting. Their biggest concern was that their child is developing normally and that they will have a healthy child, yet the stress that they are experiencing may play a vital role in the health of their baby. 

Stress is a Part of Life

We all experience stress and pregnant women often experience stress more than any of us. Often times women who are pregnant are busy trying to run house holds, hold down jobs and balance a busy schedule. While stress is normal, how much stress is too much and does it affect the fetus?

It used to be considered a myth that too much stress affects the unborn child, but researchers, including Dr. Calvin Hobel, a perinatologist (an obstetrician who practices maternal-fetus medicine) in Los Angeles who studies the affects of stress on pregnancy, are providing more and more evidence that stress is bad for pregnant women and their unborn child. Stress not only increases the risk of pre-term labor, but also a number of problems after the child is born. 

Women who are stressed release hormones and those hormones “wash” over the fetus. Genetically the fetus is forced to react to environmental cues about how to best construct and respond within the capabilities of that specific gene to what is going on. According to Dr. Pathik Wadhwa, assistant professor of behavioral science, obstetrics and gynecology at University of Kentucky College of Medicine, “The fetus builds itself permanently to deal with this kind of high-stress environment, and once it’s born may be at greater risk for a whole bunch of stress-related pathologies.” 

Some of the most recognizable effects of maternal stress on pregnancy: pre-term births and low birth weight.

Baby’s who are born premature (before 37 weeks) are at risk of many complications later such as developmental delays, learning disabilities, chronic lung disease, pervasive developmental disorders, and even death. There is even research suggesting that babies who express stress in utero are more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure as adults. More recent evidence is pointing to stress in utero affecting the baby’s temperament and possibly IQ. Baby’s who experience a lot of stress in utero are more likely to show signs of depression and irritability and are less likely to tune out repeated, unimportant stimuli, a predictor of IQ. 

Who the Mother is and What She is Like During Pregnancy Affects Who the Baby Will Turn Out To Be

According the the biopsychosocial model, we are who we are determine in part by biological, psychological and environmental influences. Mother’s who experience a lot of stress and anxiety during pregnancy are bathing their unborn child in those chemicals that affect the baby. Stress causes the mother’s nervous system to stimulate the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine which are stress hormones that restrict blood flow and oxygen to the fetus. Research also shows that the placenta in pregnant women who are stressed, releases more corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which tells the body how long a pregnancy should last and helps the fetus reach maturation. This is probably largely responsible for the increase in pre-term birth and low birth weight. 

How much stress is too much stress?

It’s hard to say, it really comes down to the woman, her personality and how she copes with stress. One woman can work two or three jobs and be fine, while one woman may find herself in trouble just trying to hold down one job. The woman needs to listen to her body, her doctor and even her family member’s if they are worried that she is too stressed or anxious. Studies show that extra help for the mother to relive some of the psycho-social stress as well as work leaves as early as 24 weeks cut down on the risk of premature birth by about 21%

Ways to Relieve Stress

Somethings pregnant women can do to relieve stress include yoga (not strenuous yoga of course), biofeedback, guided imagery and deep breathing techniques. Also, having a great support network is crucial. It is important for the pregnant woman to slow down when she starts feeling stressed, even if that means cutting back on certain things and delegating tasks to others. 

Pregnant Women Should Take this Questionnaire! 

One way to measure your stress is to take this questionnaire developed by Dr. Hobel. For every question answer “yes”, “no” or “sometimes”. If you answer “yes” or “sometimes” to three or more questions, Dr. Hobel believes you may be stressed enough to warrant talking to a counselor or your physician to help put together an intervention to help protect you and your unborn child from stress.   

  1. I feel tense
  2. I feel nervous
  3. I feel worried
  4. I feel frightened
  5. I have trouble dealing with problems
  6. Things are not going well 
  7. I cannot control things in my life
  8. I am worried that my baby is abnormal
  9. I am concerned that I may lose my baby
  10. I am concerned that I will have a difficult delivery
  11. I am concerned that I will be unable to pay my bills
  12. I live apart from my partner or spouse
  13. I have extra-heavy homework
  14. I have problems at work
  15. Have you and your partner or spouse had any problems?
  16. Have you been threatened with physical harm?

Teen Mom Wants to Have Another Baby ASAP

What if your 18 year old daughter who is in the 11th grade of high school, already has a two year old child, told you she was planning on having another child by her new boyfriend in order to not be selfish?

Working with teenagers it’s rarely anything I see or hear these days that shock me, however, there are plenty of things I see and hear that leave me dumbfounded, including when one of my favorite teenage clients, who already has a child, told me that she plans to stop taking her birth control so she can get pregnant by her new boyfriend of only about three months. What?!?!

She told me that she thought it was UNFAIR to her son that he didn’t have a sibling and unfair to her new boyfriend that she didn’t have a child by him and that she felt like she was being selfish to everyone by WAITING until the right time (oh, let’s say after she finished high school, started a career, got married) to have another child. I sat listening to her, almost hoping that I had falling off into a daydream and that this was just all part of my imagination, but it wasn’t. This high school junior, soon to be senior, with one child at home already was telling me that she was planning on getting pregnant again as soon as possible! She is already raising this child without the father’s involvement and I shouldn’t say she is raising her child because her parents are actually the ones taking care of her and her current child, yet she wants to go and get pregnant again!

I know part of the psychology of why she wants to get pregnant again is to keep her current boyfriend around. She is thinking that if she gets pregnant by her current beau, they will stay together forever. I am sure she had that same delusional fantasy with her current child’s father who she hasn’t seen in over two years. You would think she would have learned, but the delusional, fantasy world and mind of a teenager is a hard shell to crack, no matter how many times the world gets dropped on it.

As I listened to her, I actually felt a great deal of heartache for her because she was about to go and do something dumb… at least in my professional opinion. The chances of her being 18 with two kids, barely a high school degree, and being successful aren’t in her favor, especially coupled with her history of alcohol and drug use and her impulsive behavior that often leads her to be in dangerous situations.

I tried and hope I spoke some sense into her. I told her that she isn’t being selfish by waiting for the right time (and person) to have another child. I told her that it is OKAY for her to be selfish when it comes to her life. A lot of times we are told so many times about not being selfish that we forget that sometimes being selfish is a form of self-care and self-preservation. I also told her that it wouldn’t be fair to her, her current child or her future children if she once again got pregnant by a man who wouldn’t be around to help her raise the child(ren) they produced together. I definitely tried to convince her that waiting until after high school, after college (which she plans to attend), and hopefully after getting married, would be the time for her to have more children if she so chose to do that. Being a high school senior next year with two kids her and her parents are raising together is not the situation she wants to be in.

I really hope I convinced her that having a child right now, with a guy she’s only known for three months, is not a rational decision, but a large majority of the teenage mind functions irrationally. Their brains are just wired differently at this age and we’ll explore that in a future post. The bottom line is, every high school girl I’ve worked with that got pregnant to keep a boy NEVER ends up with that boy more than a year or so later. Does it happen? I’m sure it does, but I haven’t seen it. Still, it doesn’t stop them from thinking otherwise and even if they already had a child and that child’s father disappeared shortly after the birth of the child, some of them will still be convinced, as this young lady is, that it won’t happen again.

This isn’t the first time I had to deal with something similar to this. Not too long ago one of my high school clients who had a baby less than a year ago, wanted to have another baby right away because that is what her boyfriend (the babys’ father) wanted. A month or so later they broke up because he wasn’t helping her take care of the baby they already had. Imagine if she would have gotten pregnant with a second child like she wanted.

Is Pretending to be Pregnant a Mental Illness?

In The Pregnancy Project: A Memoir, Gaby Rodriguez faked her own pregnancy as a social experiment, but teenage girls pretending to be pregnant is not a new phenomenon.

Over the past three years I’ve grown more and more concerned about teenage girls pretending to be pregnant, the reasons they do this and the mental and social rewards and consequences of it. I have to wonder if part of this is because of shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, but I also think that the alarming number of their peers who actually are pregnant or have kids has an effect on them. Why would a teenage girl want to put up with the scrutiny and criticism that comes along with being pregnant in high school? This is what I think:

1. Attention

  • Some of these young girls are starving for attention no matter if it’s positive or negative. Perhaps they see all the attention their peers or siblings got when they were pregnant and crave some of that same attention. I often see that their friends, while at times judgmental, often start bonding with the young girl in a nurturing way, something that she doesn’t get normally from them.

2. To Keep a Boy Interested

  • I think this may be the most common reason young girls pretend to be pregnant. I see it played out over and over again each year in the high school I work at. A relationship ends or is on the break of ending and all of a sudden the young girl blurts out she’s pregnant or thinks she’s pregnant. This usually sends the young man into a panic and even if he’s skeptical, he tends to at least try to stay on her good side until the pregnancy is confirmed or denied. Like a lot of young teens who pretend to be pregnant, these ladies may go through great lengths to convince their boyfriends (ex-boyfriend) that they are pregnant and often times in the process, continue to try to really get pregnant. These drastic attempts to keep a boy are seldom successful.

3. Biology

  • Evolutional psychology may say that it is normal for young teens to pretend to be pregnant since it’s in their biology to want to conceive children. During my research it appears that pretending to be pregnant is to some extend normal, but I think what is abnormal is the way that some young adults go about pretending to be pregnant. Perhaps pretending to be pregnant to yourself is normal, while pretending to be pregnant and in effect lying to your friends/boyfriend is more on the abnormal end of the scale. However, if it is to some extend normal to pretend to be pregnant, can it ever go so far that it can be classified as a mental illness. To what extent does a young girl have to go to inorder convince people she is pregnant, before she moves into the realm of psychopathology?

More recently, Annette Morales Rodriguez was arrested and suspected of stalking, beating and choking to death a pregnant woman and using an xacto knife to remove her unborn child because she had had four miscarriages and had been faking her pregnancy.

One source said that she panicked as her fake due date approached and she had to produce a baby. She was willing to kill in order to “have” a child.

Pretending to be Pregnant as a Mental Illness

I have a client I’ve known for three years and each year she “gets pregnant”. I was originally referred to her when she “gave birth” to a premature baby and was back at school the next day showing pictures of “this baby” in neo-intensive care. One of her teachers was concerned about her physical and mental health and referred her to me. When I met with her she told me that the baby had died and I spend several weeks helping her get through the grieving process and even helped her with a memorial ceremony. A few months later I found out that this was all a lie. She was never pregnant. The pictures of the baby in NIC-U had come from Google Images, and this wasn’t the first time she had pretended to be pregnant. The extend to which this young girl went through to convince people she was pregnant and had given birth to a premature baby that died concerned me. I thought surely she was mentally ill, but I let it go as the next year her problems turned to the more normal problems teenage girls come and see me about (boys, family, school, friends, drugs).

And then this year she said she was pregnant again. This time I believed her (call me gullible, but I tend to believe people until I have evidence not to) because from her pretending to be pregnant last year, I felt like she wanted to get pregnant, and from my experience, young girls that talk a lot about being pregnant, pretend to be pregnant, and are sexually active, they usually end up pregnant within twelve months. Well this young girl started to gain weight, starting looking pregnant (even wore too small clothing to enhance the effect) up to a certain extend when she suddenly stopped “growing”. She claimed to feel the baby moving and said she went to doctor appointments, but would never let her friends go with her. She told her boyfriend she was pregnant and all of her friends, but not her family. She even went as far as to have her friends plan a baby shower. I offered over and over to help her break the news to her mom, but she refused and then one day her best friend came to my office in tears, telling me that she thinks the young girl is “crazy” because she really isn’t pregnant and keeps pretending to be pregnant. Her best friend told me that all of her friends and even her boyfriend are concerned for her, but they haven’t confronted her out of fear that she really is mentally ill.

After an intense session with the young girl she admitted to me that she really wasn’t pregnant, but couldn’t tell me why she kept pretending to be pregnant and was still planning on letting her friends and boyfriend think she was pregnant. As of Friday she was still planning her baby shower. That lead me to truly believe that this girl has a mental illness, but if so, what?

Factitious Disorders

The first thing that came to my mind was that she had a factitious disorder. Factitious disorders occur when a person acts like they have an illness and purposely produces symptoms of that illness. They may go as far as contaminating urine samples, manipulating documents and taking substances to make themselves ill. The benefits they seek usually are attention, sympathy, nurturance and mercy. The old term for factitious disorder is Munchausen Syndrome, and many of you have probably heard of Munchausen by proxy, which is when the person uses someone else, usually a child or elderly person, to produce the sick symptoms of an illness unto, often times with alarming and deadly results. But does a young girl who continues to pretend to be pregnant and goes to great lengths to convince people she is pregnant suffering from a factitious disorder? Through all my research I couldn’t find a definite answer, but this as of right now is my number one guess.

Personality Disorders

Borderline Personality Disorder

I also have to wonder if this girl and others like her may have some type of personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder is very popular these days, but I have only known about three people I would diagnose with borderline personality disorder and only  one of them have pretended to be pregnant in a very similar manner to the young girl I’ve been talking about. I also don’t think this young girl qualifies to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, but it is possible.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

People with histrionic personality disorder are always seeking attention and can be very inappropriately seductive, have exaggerated emotions and feel shallow. I’m not sure if this describes the young lady I’m talking about either.

Dependent Personality Disorder

People who have dependent personality disorder are dependent psychologically on other people. Pretending to be pregnant would increase the likelihood that the people this person is dependent on will be more nurturing and present, but from knowing this girl I highly doubt she has dependent personality disorder, but it may explain why some other young ladies pretend to be pregnant.

Psychopathy

Some people are just psychopaths as defined by:

  • lack of remorse or empathy
  • shallow emotions
  • manipulativeness
  • lying
  • egocentricity
  • glibness
  • low frustration tolerance
  • episodic relationships
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • persistent violation of social norms

Is it necessary that I diagnose this young lady and those like her? Probably not. I prefer not to diagnose clients unless I have to or it is a diagnoses that is literally screaming in my face. I don’t like labeling clients, but there are many reasons to give a diagnosis. Most insurance companies require a diagnosis and a diagnosis does help give a framework for developing a treatment plan. It is however, in my opinion, essential that I figure out what is driving this young girl and others like her to go through such great extents to pretend to be pregnant in hopes of helping them deal with whatever it is they are trying to get externally, and be able to give it to themselves so that they can develop into emotionally and mentally healthy adults.

If you have any opinions or if you’ve been through this or even pretended to be pregnant before, please comment. I would love to hear your story.