Keywords: Cryptic pregnancy, scam, normal pregnancy, infertility, neonaticide, Nigeria.

Cryptic Pregnancy or Scam in Nigeria? How does normal pregnancy present? What is cryptic pregnancy? Is there a scam called cryptic pregnancy in Nigeria? Why would a woman fall for such a scam? What is the way forward?

Becoming a mom for most women is a dream come true. This is because for these women there is a feeling of achievement. These women love holding and playing with their babies with an overwhelming sense of love.

But for some women, this happy emotional aspect of having a baby is mixed with fear and worry, as well frustration. For such women, denial of pregnancy may be their only outlet. So cryptic pregnancy is real.

In Nigeria, motherhood is highly revered as it fulfils and defines a woman. So infertile women in Nigeria are seen as inferior and treated as worthless. Thus they see themselves as failures.

So for such reasons, a woman who is diagnosed as infertile will go to any level in her desperation to be a mother. And even if it entails falling prey to scammers in Nigeria, she will do it to get a child. So in Nigeria there is a scam version of cryptic pregnancy.

How does normal pregnancy present?

Pregnancy actually involves events that occur sequentially. It begins with the woman’s ovum or egg fertilized by the male sperm at the beginning of the fallopian tube.

This fertilized ovum travels through the fallopian tube and affixes itself at the wall of the uterus or womb. At the uterine wall, it goes through a lot of developmental stages called embryogenesis to form a fetus. This is the baby inside the womb.

The entire process of developing inside the womb takes between 38 to 40 weeks. Then the fetus gets delivered and it is called a baby.

While the baby is developing inside the woman, she has symptoms that tell her there is pregnancy going on. These symptoms include stopping of her menses, nausea (urge to vomit), vomiting, breast and abdominal enlargement.

By 18 to 20 weeks, she will begin to feel her baby moving or kicking. And by approximately 40 weeks she goes into labour pains.

But for some women, these normal symptoms do not take place as described. For some, they may be having what is called pseudo menstrual bleeding, which they call menses. And the symptoms of pregnancy as described maybe mild or nonexistence. There may be mild labour pains or no labour pains at all.

What is cryptic pregnancy?

Cryptic pregnancy is also known as denial of pregnancy. Yes it is possible for a woman to be pregnant and not aware of it.

Denial of pregnancy or cryptic pregnancy is the lack of subjective awareness of pregnancy until 20 weeks or delivery time. So the person is not aware, neither are her partner, relatives nor the doctor.

Cryptic pregnancy is a rare occurrence in women. One woman in 475 women will come to realize the pregnancy by 20 weeks. And one woman in 2500 will recognize the pregnancy at delivery time.

These figures are global figures. But the first genuine cryptic pregnancy in Nigeria and in the Sub Saharan Africa was documented in 2020. This Nigerian 19 year old, did not know that she was pregnant. She went to see her doctor for symptoms she believed was malaria and was delivered immediate of a baby.

Types of cryptic pregnancy:

There are psychotic cryptic pregnancy and non psychotic cryptic pregnancy.

The psychotic cryptic pregnancy –

This happens when a woman suffering any mental illnesses known as psychotic illness denies her pregnancy. A woman who has schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can actually be pregnant and deny it due to delusions.

Non psychotic cryptic pregnancy –

These women do have cryptic pregnancy, but they do not have mental illness. There are 3 types of non psychotic cryptic pregnancy types.

The pervasive cryptic pregnancy subtype.

Such a woman does not have any emotional attachment to the pregnancy. And she denies the pregnancy also.

A woman with affective cryptic pregnancy subtype.

She knows that she is pregnant, but is not prepared for it. So she is not emotionally or physically prepared for the pregnancy, child birth and parenting. Most women with cryptic pregnancy fall into this category.

The woman with persistent denial subtype.

She becomes aware of the pregnancy only in the 3rd trimester, or the last 3 months. And she avoids consulting any medical personnel. 

Causes and risk factors of cryptic pregnancy:

Some scientists see cryptic pregnancy as having biological basis of low hormonal issues. They believe that it is the low hormonal issues that make the symptoms of pregnancy not noticeable. Some other physical risk factors include failure of birth control pills, inaccurate pregnancy tests and long term infertility. Those who have been infertile for long may believe that pregnancy is impossible.

Most researchers do not believe that the biological explanations are enough. So they believe that cryptic pregnancy is due to emotional turmoil.

 They believe that it is an issue that comes from intrapersonal conflicts in the woman’s mind. She is not really sure if she is wants or does not want the pregnancy.

Researchers believe that it is an unconscious mechanism the woman puts up in order to refuse the realities of pregnancy.

Also a woman with poor social and family support is more likely to deny a pregnancy. So she may be afraid of the financial implications.

Those suffering from mental illnesses or substance abuse can have cryptic pregnancy.

The symptoms of cryptic pregnancy:

Most often the symptoms of pregnancy are absent or reduced. The woman may still be seeing her menstruation or period regularly or irregularly.

Labour pains are usually mild or nonexistent. And after delivery, the baby may be under weight or normal weight.

Complications of cryptic pregnancy:

Denial of pregnancy puts the woman and the developing fetus at a high risk illness due to lack of antenatal care. And because the woman is not aware of the pregnancy, there could be poor nutrition.

There could also be unsupervised delivery and the baby can be delivered anywhere, including in a car. The mother and her baby can also be at the risk of death from the unsupervised delivery.

For some women with cryptic pregnancy, after delivery, they may not accept the baby. Thus the baby can face abuse and even the possibility of being killed, i.e. neonaticide or infanticide.

She may also have emotional disturbances after the discovery of the pregnancy or delivery. Thus she could dissociate, become depressed and suffer post partum depression, etc.

Cryptic pregnancy scam in Nigeria.

There is a new fraud in Nigeria with the name cryptic pregnancy. It has a different meaning from the cryptic pregnancy written above.

 It is actually a new trend in human trafficking and a multimillion Naira business. This business is run by some medical personnel in some hospitals and fertility clinics in Owerri, Aba, Portharcourt and Lagos.

The health officials are driven by greed to cash on women who are desperate for children. The women accept the brain washing lies because they want to solve their infertility issues.

The process involved in this pregnancy scam:

These fertility clinics or hospitals have agents that go out in search of women who are desperate to have children. When such a woman is found, she is brought to the centre.

The lies and brainwashing –

The woman is told that she can have a child despite whatever any other doctor has told her.

She is told that she has a choice to the sex of her baby. And that she can choose the number of babies she wants, be it twins, triplets, etc.

Once the woman is thinking about the offer, she is added to a WhatsApp group for testimony time. In the WhatsApp group chats, the scammers share their success stories of women who have conceived through them. Even women who make claims of success tell their stories and testimonies.

Bargaining time –

As soon as their new victim is convinced, it is time to bargain on the price. The average cost of scam cryptic pregnancy in Nigeria ranges from N1.2 million to N3 million or more. This depends on the gender of the baby and the number of babies.

Treatment time –

The woman is injected with level of hormones like estrogen and progesterone. These hormones will get the ovaries to form cysts and the abdomen to become bloated. This creates an impression to her husband and to the public that the woman is pregnant.

She is then given appointment dates. And during these appointment dates, more injections are given to maintain the pregnancy look. This is their own form of antenatal care.

More lies –

The victim is told that her pregnancy is cryptic pregnancy and that it grows slowly. She is warned not to go to see or consult in any other place than their centre.

She is warned not to do a pregnancy test or ultrasound scan for the baby. The woman will be told that the baby will not appear on the scan because of its small size. And that all babies from cryptic pregnancies are small in size.

The woman will also be told that the pregnancy duration maybe 9 months or more than 9 months. This is because the baby is growing at a slow pace, the woman is told.

Delivery time –

When the medical personnel is ready, the woman is booked for a fake caesarean section (C/S). On the booked date, she is placed under general anesthesia. The victim then wakes up from the anesthesia or unconsciousness to see a baby or babies beside her.

Sometimes, after the anesthesia, a cut is made at her vulva which they call episiotomy and not C/S. She will be told that she delivered vaginally. For some of these women, wrappers are used to cover their faces while the cutting is done.

In some cases, the breast is stimulated to produce milk via a breast pump. But this is usually not enough for the baby. So she is told to also give baby milk formular.

The truth about the matter.

The babies presented to these victims are babies trafficked from baby factories. A baby factory is an arrangement whereby unmarried pregnant teenagers are kept until they deliver.

Upon delivery, the babies are taken away from these teenage mothers by the owners of the factories. The teenage mothers are given paltry sums of money as they leave.

In some baby factories, young girls are kept there and are impregnated by paid men. These girls are taken care of by the owners of the factory until they deliver. The babies are then taken away from them.

Some of these scam pregnancies are allowed to stay beyond 9 months because a matching baby is being sort. And when the baby is found from the factory, the woman is asked to come in for delivery.

When a DNA is done between the woman and the baby, there is never a match.

Unfortunately, these women run the risk of later developing cancers due to the high doses of the injected hormones. These include breast or ovarian cancers. And some women even die in the process of the pregnancy.

Why would a Nigerian woman fall prey to such a scam?

The Nigerian culture compels men to see women that they believe can have children as attractive. And motherhood validates marriage in Africa.

So infertility in a woman is not acceptable in Nigeria. These women are stigmatized and called barren. They are taunted by their peers, their mother in-laws and even their husbands. 

It is thus this deep hunger for motherhood that make some women fall prey to these pregnancy scammers. They also become vulnerable in order to save their marriages.

In the Nigerian culture the male child is more acceptable than a female child. So a woman without a male child will be vulnerable to such scammers, to save her marriage.

The way forward.

For the cryptic pregnancy or denial of pregnancy:

It is important to have mental health post natal care for such women. Although many of these women will accept their babies after delivery, some will kill their babies.

Post natal mental health care is also important because some of these women do have an underlying mental illness. And they require treatment.

For women who are scammed:

There is need to do public enlightenment from the government, on television and radios. These are to inform the public about the activities of these scammers and their modes of operations.

There is also need for adequate sanctions for the perpetrators of such scams.

 Certain cultural beliefs need to be reviewed, especially those that stigmatize women suffering from infertility. And it is also important to stop blaming all childlessness in a couple on the woman.

Adoption of children should be an accepted method of having children in the family. This can be encouraged and preached by church leaders.

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