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Brazilian woman undergoes emergency C-section but isn't pregnant

Doctors carry out a caesarean section in this 2011 file photo.
LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images

SAO PAULO  -- Doctors in southern Brazil performed a cesarean section on a 37-year-old woman only to discover that she wasn't pregnant.

Simone Carvalho, spokeswoman for the Health Department of the coastal city of Cabo Frio, said Tuesday the woman told doctors at the city's Woman's Hospital she was 41 weeks pregnant and in pain.

Carvalho said one reason doctors believed she was pregnant was because "she had the symptoms associated with pregnancy like an enlarged abdomen and nausea."

"Doctors could not hear the baby's heartbeat and feeling its life was in danger ordered an emergency cesarean after which they discovered it was a false pregnancy," she said.

The spokeswoman added the woman "was so convinced she was pregnant, that she altered her prenatal tests that showed otherwise because she was convinced the results were wrong."

WebMD reports it’s rare that a woman believes she is pregnant, only to find out her symptoms were caused by something else entirely. But this can occur in cases known as a “phantom” or “false” pregnancy, or pseudocyesis,. In these cases, women can have all the symptoms of pregnancy, including weight gain, enlarged breasts, nausea and back pain.

This may be caused by an “intense desire to get pregnant,” which in turn may cause the brain to misinterpret those signals as an actual pregnancy, and release hormones that lead to real symptoms.