Health

Cryptic pregnancy: 'I had two seconds to prepare'

Klara Dollan with daughter Amelia Image copyright Klara Dollan

Hundreds of babies each year are born in the UK to mothers who didn't know they were pregnant. Klara Dollan was one of those to experience a so-called cryptic pregnancy. She told BBC Radio 5 Live's Nihal Arthanayake about a day which started unremarkably and ended with her becoming a mother.

It was Monday morning. I woke up at 04:00 with the worst period cramps I had ever had in my life. I had taken the pill continuously for the last six months, no breaks. I thought this is my period coming with a vengeance. I thought why does it have to come back on the first day of a new job?

My Mum gave me some paracetamol and said: "You need to go, off you go." The pains were slow and lasted maybe half a minute. It was nothing like I'd experienced before. I was sweating bullets.

When I got to the office, this pain came over me, and I remember the pen breaking in my mouth and my nails digging into my notebook. I turned to my mentor and I said: "I've got to go, I'm not doing too well." So I walked out.

Locked Out

When I get to my home, I'm searching through my bag and my keys are not in there. So I call a locksmith. They take two hours to come. I'm walking around quite a lot because that helps the pain. Everything was going through my mind.

I was thinking of dates but I was thinking wait, that would be impossible, I would be nine months pregnant then! The locksmith came and I really was desperate. He says: "I'm going to have to break your door down." So I get in and I get into bed in my pyjamas. The only place I feel comfortable is on the toilet.

Image copyright Klara Dolan
Image caption Klara at six months pregnant

At this point, the pains are getting closer together and I am starting to scream. [The building caretaker] hears. I say: "Call the ambulance, there's something seriously wrong with me!"

Push the pain away

At this point, I'm bleeding, but really heavily. He didn't know what to do so he knocks on my neighbour, who works from home. I've never met her before. She walks into my bathroom and I'm half-naked on the toilet. I tell her I think I'm having a miscarriage.

My neighbour called an ambulance. This is when my body just completely shuts down and does it all for me.

Image copyright Klara Dollan
Image caption Klara at eight months pregnant

I push and push twice and I see a head come out. My body is telling me to push the pain away. So I push and out came my daughter, Amelia. She was full-term... screaming. She was crying and so was I.

I completely broke down. People prepare to become parents. I had two seconds to figure out what is going to happen to me what should I do. I even considered hiding it all. The ambulance came and four paramedics were in my tiny bathroom.

They took the baby away to check her over, cleared her up a bit and cut her umbilical cord. She was 7lb 2oz [3.2kg]. Then we were taken in two separate ambulances to hospital.

What is a cryptic pregnancy?

  • Term used when a woman has no idea that she is pregnant - some women report not knowing until they are in labour
  • About one in 2,500 births is a "cryptic birth"
  • That equals about 300 births in the UK a year
  • Some cases are associated with a period of stress when a woman may not have, or not experience, the usual signs of pregnancy
  • Even women who have irregular or absent periods still experience other pregnancy symptoms

Source: Helen Cheyne, professor of midwifery at the University of Stirling

No signs

I was mainly thinking how am I going to afford this child, and how did I miss all the signs? I was slimmer than I am now. I wasn't craving anything, I had no back pain. I did have two periods, which were more like small spotting, during my pregnancy. I was taking the pill six months back-to-back and I'd stopped taking it two weeks before Amelia was born.

The placenta was on the front and Amelia was at the back so you can't feel the kicking as much.

[The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists say it may be more difficult to feel the baby's movements if the placenta is at the front of the uterus. Here's their guidance on what you need to know about your baby's movements in pregnancy and when you should seek advice.]

Every time my daughter was moving around, it would feel more like butterflies, or even bowel movement. It did not feel like a full-time baby punching around inside of me.

Image copyright Klara Dollan
Image caption Amelia was born full-term at 7lb 6oz

People have said: "This is all fake. She made it up." I wouldn't because a) my health is at risk and b) the child's health is at risk.

I definitely do not want to hide from Amelia the story of her birth. When the time is right I will tell her. Life has never been better. Everything turned out better after Amelia was born.

Parts of Klara's account have been edited for brevity. Listen to Nihal Arthanayake's full interview with Klara on BBC Sounds.

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