A New Kind Of Stupid

Everyday I meet a new kind of stupid.
A woman, thirty-five years old, mother of two children went to her GP. She had a swollen belly and pain which came and went in waves. She also hadn't had a menstrual period in over nine months. That morning, just after the pain had started, she had lost some fluid from her vagina. The pain was getting worse and the waves were getting closer together.

The GP did a (completely unnecessary) pregnancy test which – surprise, surprise, come back positive.

The GP was incredibly relieved when we arrived.

We had just managed to wheel her into the maternity department when the baby made an appearance. My crewmate helped the midwife deliver the baby while I was hiding in the ambulance. I'm quite happy for any baby (not of my own) to be born with me not watching, I suspect the woman was quite happy I wasn't there as well.

Here was a woman who was fully aware of what pregnancy is like, she wasn't even in denial – the whole thing came as a complete shock. Her husband looked completely shell-shocked as well.

The whole thing really beggars comment.

46 thoughts on “A New Kind Of Stupid”

  1. One begs to wonder what sort of activities she participated in whilst preggers….drink, smoke, eat badly, etc. Most women while pregnant take the utmost in care for their own health and that of their child. Who know what this woman did. Hope the poor tyke (and the others) stand a chance with 'rents like that!

  2. When I worked in an ob/gyn office, our on-call doc got an urgent call to go the hospital for a delivery. The mother was 13, incredibly obese, and had no idea she was pregnant. Her mother brought her to the ER with “terrible stomach ache.” She gave birth before our doc could even get there! But she was developmentally challenged, and had been raped and not told anyone about it. Very sad.

  3. How does that happen!!! its not like its never happened before to her! surely the no period and swollen stomach was a clue or maybe she is a frequent curry eater!! amazing that some of these people have the brains to know how to put what where to make a baby!

  4. Wow, there really are Vicky Pollards out there……..even if they are 34yrs old….”yeah, but i aint 'ad periods for 9 munfs innit, and now i got a big belly, n whatever”……..

  5. It seem impossible that a woman could not notice the changes in her body.I wonder if she was actually suffering with some kind of psychological delusion or denial. Are there any psychiatrists or psychotherapists reading that could comment?

  6. Amazing, isn't it! I've been in A&E nursing for 4 years and I have seen 4 such deliveries… Never ceases to baffle me that people can be so oblivious to what is going on in their own bodies: in only one of the cases I saw was there any element of a 'denial' factor…

  7. Was she enormously fat (I mean, normally, when she isn't pregnant?) If so, a couple of extra stone put on due to pregnancy would be miniscule compared to the rest of the lard.Alice

  8. That was my thought as well – that she might have some (not necessarily obvious) mental health difficulties and is not able to be aware or conscious of the state of her physical body as a result. Possible, no?

  9. the is the the other end of the scale. when me and the wife were trying for a kid (to add to the 3 she already had). she had a feeling that was back by a test that she was.about 9 months later give or take a day. she said to me, hope you are going to be home on time, i think i want to go nip shrewsbury tonight. i thought no more about it until i got home that night.right i got a babysitter, have some food we off to the hospital in a hour or so as this (points to bump) is going to make a appearance tonight. she was almost right, it was the early morning of the 10 of 0ct 1998 when my daughter made her appearance. well my wife shell was close enough, and we had time to go there by our car. Shame that not true for most expectant women.

  10. How come the GP needed to do a pregnancy test? My wife can usually tell months ahead whether a woman is pregnant, just by looking. Perhaps the husband was shell-socked because it wasn't his.

  11. I had a friend who didn't know she was pregnant until well over the 6 month mark.She was a big girl to start with and having problems with irregular periods already so she wasn't worried about no period for months. There was also a nasty bug circulating in the area during the months where she would have been getting morning sickness, so she thought it was just a prolonged case of the bug. And she did actually lose a little weight during that time.It wasn't until she felt the baby moving in a big way that she realised what was going on.

  12. Sorry to be a bit heavy when you are all having fun on the moral high ground but got this out of the BMJ (Britiah Medical Journal):As many as one in 475 pregnancies may be denied

    The common view that denied pregnancies (where the woman does not know she is pregnant in the first 20 weeks of gestation) are rare events is not true. Wessel and Buscher determined a ratio of one denied pregnancy in 475 births, based on all births in Berlin during one year. Denial occurs more often than rhesus haemolytic disease or a uterine rupture. As the completeness of recruited cases could not be determined, the true rate may be even higher.

    Related Article

    Denial of pregnancy: population based study

    Jens Wessel and Ulrich Buscher

    BMJ 2002 324: 458.

  13. Just imagine her trying to feed the poor baby.'I've got the spoon and the food. Now which hole does it go in?''Not that one dear. That's the exit point.'

  14. Sure, up to 20 weeks. But this was 40! I bet the rate for denied, full term, pregnancies is just a teensy bit lower.

  15. It's really rather a bit tragi- of course, as mentioned, denial could play a role. But remember, it doesn't take brains to fall pregnant (frequently, quite the opposite)

  16. Yes it is lower at full term.In the study there were 12 deliveries where a viable foetus was born without the woman having realised that she was pregnant until she went into labour.

  17. I would query whether she is stupid… or whether, having two children already, a third could not be afforded, and about… say… six or seven months ago, she thought she might be pregnant but didn't want to face a decision, so dealt with it by not dealing with it and convincing herself she couldn't possibly be pregnant?People do stranger things. For example, they convince themselves that despite the company failing, their jobs are secure and get surprised when they are made redundant. Why shouldn't she be convinced she couldn't possibly be pregnant? Even vasectomies aren't 100% – from FHI: “A group of 573 women whose husbands had vasectomies served as the CREST controls. They were followed-up for five years by telephone interviews. Ten pregnancies were identified…”Unusual? Yes. But there's enough room for doubt that I would hesitate before jumping up and down jeering at this woman and calling her “stupid”.

  18. As I understand it, women who have had miscarriages are sometimes likely to refuse to countenance the idea that they might be pregnant again. They may choose to not even do a pregnancy test, as they don't care to acknowledge a possibility that the whole nightmare could recur.A subconscious refusal to “go through all that again”.

    (Of course it is possible this woman is simply thick as pigshit, I'm just not able to condemn her out of hand.)

  19. It made me laugh so hard that I'm having trouble breathing. As I'm one of LAS Newham's regular customers because of my asthma it's within possibility that you may get to read about me in this blog because I read this blog… 🙂

  20. hooray!! people who can have a laugh about it rather than get all arsey and talk about “denial”and i hope your breathing gets better!!!

  21. What we really need is to hear from several women who've discovered their pregnancies when they were delivering their babies, especially if they'd had previous babies like your patient. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? They're the only ones who can tell us. And I really want to know, because I totally don't get it. I'd heard about this before, but I had no idea it was so common. I thought it had happened, like, maybe once in human history. How could anyone possibly not know? How could the woman's husband not know? Tom, for the sake of all us inquiring minds here, please winkle that woman out of her flat (you know where she lives) and interview her for this blog.

  22. Hi, I've just found your blog after hearing you on radio 4… which probably says a lot about me…I find so much shared frustrations with a lot of the scenarios you come across –

    I'm a vet (small animal) and the other day (when we were busy, average waiting time 25mins) I called in a woman with a dog – the woman was visible but the dog was out of sight around the corner in the porch, with an approx 9 year old lad. Both lad and dog were SWIMMING in blood. As they weren't visible to Reception they weren't fast-tracked in to see a vet – the 'cut paw' was rapidly becoming an

    exsanguination, and NO effort whatsoever had been made to put any pressure on the wound.

    Whilst I applied a dressing to the cut paw and expressed some concern over the blood loss, the mother proceeded to lay into the son about letting the dog walk on broken glass and he burst into tears. So my efforts to instruct him in some basic First Aid were lost as he blubbed.

    I really hope if I ever collapse in the street it's not next to people like that. The knowledge of Basic First Aid amongst the public is abysmal. There….rant over! I feel SO much better

  23. There was a case on the local news recently where a man called 911 because his wife was having severe abdominal pains. While he was on the phone with the dispatcher, he suddenly exclaimed, “!@# It's a baby!”Apparently, this was the 2nd time she'd gone through a pregnancy w/out realizing it until giving birth. It didn't sound like they were stupid people, rather for some reason she doesn't always experience or exhibit the normal signs. (Although, I must admit, if it were me, after the first time, I'd invest in a pregnancy test every month or two, just for safety's sake.) They seemed happy enough about a 4th addition to their family, though.

  24. One new year's eve a young girl came in to A & E c/o abdo pain, you guessed it , in labour. Mother said “She can't be pregnant, she never goes out after dark” ????

  25. Good grief. This is the kind of story that ends up in the tat women's mags. Having been pregnant and in labour (successfully), I'm a bit baffled how a person could miss the symptoms for 40 weeks. The need to pee constantly in the middle of the night, the tiredness, bigger and sore boobs…not to mention the bump!

  26. yeah, right! Yay for laughing at people behind their backs! That's really funny!Tom, I hope for your sake you've anonymised this to hell and back, so that this woman can't stumble upon your blog and recognise herself, and see people taking the piss out of her.

  27. There's the story of the mother who fears for her daughter on her first date. 'Don't let him get on top of you or mummy will worry.'After the date the girl arrives home and mummy asks 'Did he get on top of you?'

    She replies 'No. I got on top of him. Let his mummy worry.'

  28. In recent years so many people ahve advised pregnant women to not do this, don't eat that, etc, etc, etc….But before Thalidamide there wasn't really any guidance on what to do, it was kinda “congrats, see you in 9mths”

    So, if anything, her child will probably be as healthy (if not healthier) as an “average” child.

    (can you tell i did an assignment on this once – just cant remember any references *smacks back of own hand*)

  29. And, at the other end of the spectrum, I've been to a patient in the past who was experiencing a phantom labour. She was having contractions and pain, dilated cervix, swollen belly etc. but absolutely no sign of a baby at all. Totally baffled us, the midwives and the doctors!

  30. Hi, just to say a friend of mine has had three children. In each labour, she was quietly lying in bed in the main maternity ward until very near the birth, totally comfortable, contractions not painful. Each labour was nearly over before she knew it!

  31. Let's review the evidence: normal-physique woman, aged mid-thirties so almost certainly not post-menopausal, with multiple experience of pregnancy, and showing multiple obvious late-pregnancy symptoms (distended abdomen, no menstruation, waves of pain associated with contracting muscles, loss of fluid from vagina) goes to her doctor, and asks “what's wrong with me?”Experienced medical professionals answer “you're about to give birth”.

    I'm going to say that the most parsimonious explanation for her behaviour is “stupid“.

    We've pretty much eliminated the potentially explanatory variables – she's not obese, she's not inexperienced, there's no mention of what birth-control method she and her partner may have been using, so we have have no way to estimate the efficacy of such method, and there's no mention of any history of events that might have sterilized her (E.G. hysterectomy, ovarian cancer, etc.).

    Claiming “denial” does not render the verdict of “stupid” invalid – denial is a stupid thing to do, a stupid attitude to adopt, in many (if not most) situations. Yes, it's a coping strategy – but that doesn't mean there are not much better coping strategies available.

    Note that we're not jumping up and down and pointing while shouting. Tom did disguise her identity, it's not like he said “we went to Mrs. so-and-so, she's a moron LOL” (besides, that hardly seems like his style). We're laughing at an anonymous idiot on a blog.

    I'm not going to be wonderfully sympathetic to everyone – I feel that it's never wrong to laugh and be happy, and hearing about fools encountered by LAS makes me happy.

    The other stories related by other commenters do not necessarily fall into this category – particularly the 13-year-old mentioned by Maria. Yikes! While laughing at fools makes me happy, stories like that make me sad (for her) and angry (at the rapist).

    The whole thing really beggars comment. 38 Comments. ??

  32. My crewmate and me recently delivered twins, to a couple who rang NHS direct asking for advise for abdo pain, twenty mins later the nurse at NHSD rang back, and asked the standard questions, and the answers didn't relate to any of the usual ailments i.e food poisoning, appendicittis etc., after several more minutes, the nurse was becoming baffled at this ladies predicament, so as a last ditched effort asked if she was pregnant, “oh yes, i'm due to induced next Tuesday”, best call an Ambulance then was the nurses reply. So even if they do know they're pregnant, they are still thick as shit!! the twins were fine, spent a few days on SCBU, then the parents forgot to go and pick them up!!!

  33. interesting story but on a minor point–>urinary pregnancy tests react to the presence of beta-human chorionic gonadotrophin aka beta HCG. This hormone rapidly increases in level in the first few weeks of pregnancy and then levels tail off spectacularly. At term i would be surprised if a urine bHCG would come back positive. in fact it probably would be negative at 20weeks.

  34. I wondered about that as well. Perhaps the GP knew that she was pregnant anyways, but wanted to really convince her. So he asks her to pee in a cup, takes it out to the hallway, flushes it, comes back and says “congratulations!”

  35. I've read of a few cases and yes – the automatic reaction is to say “How in the hell can they miss a BABY?” as it seems so unlikely. However, there are some things to bear in mind (some of which have been mentioned above): Obesity, a tiny bump even in a small woman, irregular menstrual cycles, women who continue to have regular bleeds throughout pregnancy, not everyone will have “classic” signs of pregnancy such as morning sickness, attributing some signs to other causes (be it n&v or tender breasts).One story I read (albeit in a magazine) was similar to this – a thirty something woman, had had previous pregnancies and had no apparent psychological issues that might lead to denial or inability to recognise changes in her body. She stated quite clearly that this pregnancy was very different from the previous experiences – that she'd not felt any vigorous movements (just in fact what she presumed was gas – early movements can actually feel just like that), she put on very little weight, she wasn't obese from memory (just average) and she didn't have a noticable bump even at delivery. She too was rushed to hospital with severe abdominal pain and I believe it took a while before the A&E staff figured out what was going on as well. She happily admitted that she understood why people said she was in denial and couldn't possibly have missed the signs, but she seemed honestly to have no idea at all, nor did her husband, her friends, or her family. Both she and her husband were thrilled once they got over the shock.

    I saw a second case which involved a teenager who was found collapsed in her bedroom and rushed in with her mother (this was in the US I believe) who swore she only suddenly had swollen up – so immediately the staff were looking for what might lead to sudden abdominal swelling and pain. Of course, the exam clearly showed that she was well and truly on the way to being a mommy. In this case, though, she was aware that she was pregnant but through fear had not told anyone or sought any prenatal care. It does, however, demonstrate how blind some family members can be.

    Finally, an experience from my own family. Although the person in question was well aware that she was pregnant, when I saw her less than 2 weeks before delivery, she barely had a visible bump (she looked maybe 5 months pregnant, a small 6 at a push). She was a small lass, five foot nothing and slim build, and she delivered a nearly 10lb baby. In young women, particularly fit women, the abdominal muscles can occasionally do a great job of holding everything in – because I have no idea *where* she was keeping 10lbs of baby plus all the extras.

    Sometimes, however, you really do wonder how they miss obvious signs, like in this case. And I agree with the comments above that I would be surprised if a standard urine pregnancy test would produce a positive result during labour.

  36. Exact same call, SW sector early on Sat morn. “22yof abdo pain, pv bleed” Green 2 job. We considered giving it to the “green truck” (2 trainees drc had wisely thrown together to make a green truck!) but as we were off at 7am and this was 6.45am we thought it would see us off. We went to the loo and drove down there, no lights and sirens as it was indoors. Just as i'm about to hit “on scene” the radio beeps and we're updated that this is a BBA (born before arrival), I sweaked into the radio “that's not quite abdo pain!”. While my crewmate scrambled around in the back for the maternity kit, I went up stairs with the boyfriend repeating “we didn't know” over and over behind me. At this point I must say the only other job i've had that was the same, the baby was dead, all I could think on the way up was that i'm gonna have to tell them their baby's dead.

    I went into their bathroom and saw a young woman who had that look of “deer in headlights”, she had her mouth open and could barely string a sentence together, other than “how didn't I know?”. The baby was a pink, crying, eye opening, fist sucking, shivering, perfect baby boy.

    We dealt on scene, loaded up onto the truck, where the woman started making more sense. She had had normal periods for the whole time, no feelings of movement, no breast changes, had gained about 1 stone, but it's normal for her to yo-yo in the weight dept anyway. She had a child already and it was a very sickly, swollen, uncomfortable pregnancy. So, it just didn't occur to her.

    We waited around in maternity to see they were both okay, both doing very well. By the time we reached hosp Dad was over the moon and mom was saying “my mom's gonna kill me!”

    I thought women who “didn't know” must be stupid, but here was a sensible, previously pregnant, not obese woman who was thinking herself stupid for not knowing. I don't think i'll ever forget the look on her face!! (or the relief I felt when I saw a full term, breathing baby!)

  37. Dunno about stumbling across it – it could jump up and beat her around the head while screaming her name and she wouldn't notice. Hang on, that's not you he's talking about is it?

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