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We have discussed Phantom pregnancy. At the other end of the spectrum we have a rather more common phenomenon; that of Concealed Pregnancy.  Many and varied issues surround the issue of concealed pregnancy.

Consequences of Pregnancy Concealment

In those countries where safe pregnancy termination services are unavailable, pregnancy concealment continues to take a heavy toll in the shape of thousands of lives lost and countless others, usually young women, permanently maimed in the process of procuring illegal pregnancy termination. In 2003, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that over 4 million women have illegal abortion every year in South America alone, with hundreds of thousands being left maimed or dead in the process.

In January 2007, the BBC reported from Ghana (where pregnancy termination is illegal) that official figures there show that 30% of all maternal deaths each year are due to illegal abortion.

For those women who conceal pregnancies with no intention of termination, the potential problems are of a different nature. What binds these women, wherever they might be in the world, is the fact that they do not get any sort of antenatal care. In fact many of them will also make arrangements that they give birth alone, without any sort of help.  

The absence of antenatal or intrapartum (during labour) care means the lives of both mother and baby is put in peril. It is true that most pregnancies and deliveries do progress without a hitch. Unfortunately some women with concealed pregnancies will experience complications which could and in some cases does lead them to lose both their lives and that of the baby. Even where delivery is uneventful, tragically, some newborns are abandoned by their mothers soon after birth in a determined effort to carry on with the concealment.  Many of these babies perish.

Pregnancy concealment is a huge and complex social issue rather than a medical one. As shown above, there are several varied strands that influence this.    

Read about a case of possible ‘pregnancy denial’ with tragic consequences on the next page   

Concealed Pregnancy

Gerri Santoro

Gerri Santoro died alone in a motel room in Connecticut in 1964 after this botched  illegal abortion