A woman's claim that she didn't know she was pregnant until her baby was crowning is stoking shock and fears about 'cryptic pregnancies,' however, doctors say cases are rare
- Kayla Simpson recounted her unexpected path to motherhood in a viral TikTok video.
- She said she didn't know she was pregnant until her daughter was crowning.
In November 2021, the New Jersey-based TikToker Kayla Simpson was rushed to the emergency room after suffering severe abdominal pain, she recounted in a viral TikTok video. Her mother suggested it could be period cramps, but Simpson had ended her period two days prior, she said in the video.
According to Simpson, who was 20 years old then, she didn't know she was about to give birth. That's because she'd undergone a cryptic pregnancy, she told 8.4 million TikTok viewers this week, or the term for unknown pregnancies that don't come with any of the typical symptoms or signs, like cravings, morning sickness, or sometimes even a baby bump.
Simpson's video and revelation have shocked and distressed viewers; While women said it's "unlocked" a new fear in them, some said not knowing about being pregnant for the entire term sounded "ideal."
A doctor told Insider that cryptic pregnancies are uncommon, and the circumstances that Simpsons described are even more rare.
The viral video that made millions of women aware of 'cryptic pregnancies'
On Sunday, Simpson shared her story on TikTok which she titled, "How I became a mom within 15 minutes."
According to her, after arriving at the hospital with abdominal pain, she was given an ultrasound to rule out a hernia, ovarian cysts, and appendicitis. Her mother then saw "something familiar" on the scan, she said, which turned out to be "little feet." Simpson claimed her baby began crowning soon after, and she gave birth to her daughter, Madi.
"Throughout my so-called pregnancy, I had lost 30 pounds, was the flattest I have ever been, and had my period every month," Simpson said in the video. "Madi was a completely healthy baby and had no medical problems whatsoever."
Commenters were shocked by the medical phenomenon, and others shared their own experiences with cryptic pregnancies.
"My kidney infection is now 4 years old and my bestie for life," one commenter wrote.
Some, however, expressed terror at the thought of a cryptic pregnancy."NEW FEAR UNLOCKED," wrote a top commenter. "I would have cried for 40 days and 40 nights," added another.
While cryptic pregnancies are uncommon, ones in which the realization arrives at labor are rarer still, said Dr. Nicole Rankins, a Virginia-based OB-GYN and host of the "All About Pregnancy & Birth" podcast. Roughly 1 in 475 women don't realize they're pregnant until the five-month marker, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and only about 1 in 2,500 discover they're pregnant while in labor.
If the circumstances surrounding Simpson's pregnancy sound staggering, it's because they are extremely rare.
Rankins said that she "will never discount anyone's lived experiences," but that some of Simpson's were unusual.
'I think that it's possible that there is a strong mental component,' said Rankins
Rankins told Insider that the cause of cryptic pregnancies is unknown, but they are more commonly seen in women with irregular periods. In her 20 years of practice (and 2,000 deliveries), she has only seen two patients who didn't realize they were pregnant until labor — both of whom were "very much so trying to hide it from their families, and not wanting to be pregnant," she said.
"I think that it's possible that there is a strong mental component," Rankins said.. "I think there can be a very strong dissociation from the physical symptoms of pregnancy."
While pregnant women can experience occasional bleeding, it is impossible for them to have menstrual periods, as Simpson had claimed. And while some pregnant women lose weight due to nausea (or have smaller bumps because their babies are smaller or they have tighter abdominal muscles), a 30-pound loss is "not typical of how the human body works," she added.
"I've never seen anyone who's pregnant with a full-term baby and have a completely flat belly," Rankins said.
Simpson's viral TikTok has also intrigued women who said her situation sounded ideal.
"My dream is to have a cryptic pregnancy so I don't have to go through all the regular pregnancy stuff," a commenter wrote. However, Rankins noted that cryptic pregnancies can also increase the risk of problems because they preclude prenatal care.
Social media can cause widespread panic about exceptional cases
Birth control?, period? Drinking?, belly?, parents reaction? Everything in 1 vid. You’re welcome:)♬ original sound - Kayla
Rankins warned that social media can make strange medical conditions seem more imminent than they are. While there have been notable cases, they are few and far between.
Earlier this month, WNBA player Ruthy Hebard shared her own experience with a cryptic pregnancy — though she had learned of hers sooner, after roughly 5 to 6 months.
While it's great that viewers are becoming more aware of medical phenomena, cryptic pregnancies are not something the average person should fret about.
"Social media algorithms tend to favor things that are completely on the fringe," she said. "They're gonna drive these things in front of you that are actually pretty rare occurrences."
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