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Caroline Burke / Gavel Media

The Correlation between Sex Ed and Cryptic Pregnancies

Perhaps the scariest thing about pregnancy is the fact that you might not even know that you are. A stealth pregnancy, or cryptic pregnancy, is exactly what the name suggests - a pregnancy that manages to go undetected well into the second trimester or, on rare occasions, until delivery. Although these pregnancies account for only 1 in every 425 pregnancies (1 in 2500 are discovered at delivery), they have become a viral topic on social media sites like TikTok. 

One TikTok user, Tailyn Norman, posted about her own experience with a cryptic pregnancy and its deceptive nature. Her post, which amassed 15.7 million views in a matter of hours, detailed how she discovered her pregnancy while she was concurrently giving birth. She assumed her pain simply derived from period cramps, but clearly, that was not the case. 

This belief is a common misconception that works to diminish symptoms of pregnancy. Most people assume that as long as a person is bleeding, they are on their period and therefore incapable of being pregnant. This is, in fact, not true. A hormonal imbalance can cause the uterine wall to shed and therefore present as a period. Most individuals use a continual period as a justification for denial of their pregnancy. 

Others also cite negative home pregnancy tests and birth control pills as definitive factors that prohibit any possibility of pregnancy. The relief experienced with a negative pregnancy test is all-encompassing and taken as wholly conclusive. This assumption, however, is not necessarily accurate. Even though these tests are marketed as 99% effective, if a person is experiencing a hormone imbalance (the same type of imbalance that can cause a “fake” period), then there might not be enough accumulation of the pregnancy-indicating hormone to warrant a positive test result. 

The belief that taking prescribed birth control pills automatically prohibits pregnancy is also a major factor in the formation of a cryptic pregnancy. Although birth control pills are also marketed as 99% effective, this is only true when a person is taking them “perfectly.” The majority of people taking birth control, however, take it “typically,” which only has a 91% efficacy rate. These people tend to deviate from the prescribed method of taking the pills on a strict, regimented schedule. 

Birth control pills introduce new hormones into your body that work to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Since these hormones are artificial and not naturally produced, it is up to the user to recreate the  consistent cycle of biologically-created hormones. Any divergence from this rhythm can cause a hormonal drop which then begins the ovulation cycle. Even an hour's deviation can disrupt this cycle and lead to an unannounced pregnancy. 

These misconceptions surrounding pregnancy and birth contraceptives can be attributed to a lack of a comprehensive sex education system. Students tend to only be taught the bare necessities when it comes to sex and the reverence of abstinence takes precedence over information on healthy and safe sexual practices. This is all under the assumption that there is any sex education in the first place. Private and religious institutions tend to rely on scare tactics and impractical advice to bar the notion of sexuality at all. 

These ignorances primarily harm the soon-to-be mother as they are the most vulnerable and unprotected in this absence of knowledge. They cannot prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for motherhood. Subsequently, the surprise of the pregnancy has the possibility of derailing the mother’s life. Cryptic pregnancies, while now popular on TikTok, need to be addressed more directly to prevent these adverse effects. The factors that contribute to them could be easily missed, which demonstrates the gaps within our current sex education system. For the sake of both mother and child, people need to be fully informed of the causes and effects related to sexual health and safety. Cryptic pregnancies are a direct result of the lack of education and awareness of the risks and consequences surrounding sex and contraceptives. No one deserves to unknowingly become a mother overnight, nor have this fear instilled in them through a TikTok video.

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