Doctors in Brazil operated on a 41-week pregnant woman only to discover the expecting mother in “labor” had an empty womb.
The woman, 37, arrived at the hospital in Cabo Frio, in south-east of Brazil, with sharp pains on Tuesday.
When doctors were unable to detect the baby’s heartbeat, they rushed her into an emergency room for a caesarean, according to Rosalice Almeida, the hospital’s director.
“She’d done her whole pre-natal and was already overdue,” Almeida told Globo G1. “Because the doctors couldn’t pick up the heartbeat, they decided there wasn’t time to request an ultrasound.”
“They did the surgery then had the great shock of not finding any baby at all.”
The woman’s husband, 23, told doctors his wife had been pregnant once before. Last year the woman said she had a miscarriage, but never showed the husband a death certificate.
The case has been registered as a false or phantom pregnancy and the woman has been released from the hospital and referred to psychiatric care.
The rare condition, also known as pseudocyesis, occurs when a woman makes herself believe that she is pregnant when in reality she is not. All the symptoms are there: nausea, vomiting, weight gain, fatigue and the enlargement of the stomach, according to Dr. Manny Alvarez, Fox News Channel’s Senior Managing Editor for Health News.
Phantom pregnancies often occur in women with a history of infertility or miscarriage and “many of these patients experience these symptoms for months, and they are often quite alarmed when they are told there is no pregnancy after they seek medical advice,” Alvarez wrote.
In December of last year, Layane Santos, 19, was rushed to a hospital in Sao Paolo, claiming she was 38 weeks pregnant. When she was told that there was no baby and the pregnancy was a false one, she accused the hospital of stealing her child.
As strange as that may sound, perhaps the strangest fact is that men can also suffer from phantom pregnancies, according to Alvarez.