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Can you fake yourself pregnant?

Book: Phantoms in the Brain written by V.S Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee. Ramachandran is a neuroscientist and professor in UCSD's Department of Psychology, where he is the director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition.

This book has been described as 'one of the most accessible neurological books of our generation' says Oliver Sacks neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and author.

Ramachandran is science all the way, he does also comment in this book that "the messages preached by physicians such as Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil are not just new age psychobabble. It contains important insights into the human organism - ones that deserve serious scientific scrutiny".

Ramachandran came across this curious case in a 1930's medical monograph including a report written by Dr Silas Weir Mitchell (1829 - 1914) who is the physician that coined the term 'phantom limb'. It was 1932 and Mary Knight was 32 years of age she was 9 months pregnant when she booked herself in to see Dr Monroe. This was before the age of free medical care so Mary up to this point had only had an informal chat with a mid-wife in the street but on this day she had felt the baby kick for some time so she suspected that her labour was about to begin. Dr Monroe examined Mary, her abdomen suggested that the fetus had dropped as it was vastly enlarged and low. Her boobs were swollen and her nipples were mottled but the stethoscope was not picking up a heartbeat. Then he noticed that the belly button was not poking out, it was inverted which is not what you see on a pregnant lady. The doctor had been told about false pregnancy in medical school, when a woman desperately wants to get pregnant or occasionally in women who deeply dread the thought of pregnancy they can show all the signs including morning sickness and lactating and Mary had been waiting a long time to get pregnant.

Dr Monroe knew this was a case of false pregnancy (pseudocyesis) but what should he do? He made the decision to tell her that the baby was coming and that he was going to give her ether so that she wouldn't be in pain. When Mary came to the doctor stroked her hand and told her that he had some terrible news - the baby was stillborn. Mary was devastated and crying, she said this would be a terrible disappointment for her husband and mother. As she let the news sink in the doctor noticed that her stomach began to deflate and his suspicions were confirmed.

One week pasted and then Mary returned, to the doctors astonishment her tummy was huge once more. "Doctor, doctor" she shouted "I have come back because you forgot to deliver the twin I can feel him kicking in there".

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