Mystery Bump

Are more women delivering babies . . . but didn’t know they were pregnant?

While I know of no formal tabulation, it seems that I’ve been hearing more and more about these surprise babies. There was even a reality TV show that lasted four seasons(!) about just this issue: Women who, unaware for nine months that they had a growing fetus, then child, in their uterus, develop abdominal pain and, poof: It’s a baby!

(I once witnessed this in a very smart lady, around 30 years old, a nurse, who developed abdominal pain and went to her local emergency room. One look and the ER doctor told her she was pregnant and delivered a healthy 7+ pound baby boy. When she showed me her baby, I thought she was just showing off a friend’s baby. I have to say I embarassed her with my inadvertent but obvious incredulity.)

The protuberant visceral fat of the wheat belly is among the signature signs of consumption of this grain, perfectly crafted for weight gain, particularly in the form of visceral fat, i.e., the deep, inflammatory fat that encircles the abdominal organs. Modern wheat accomplishes this effect via amylopectin A, the “complex” carbohydrate that raises blood sugar and insulin higher than simple sugars; the gliadin protein that binds to the opiate receptors of the human brain, stimulating appetite and increasing calorie intake by 440 calories per day; it’s due to the combined inflammatory effects of gliadin that unlocks normal intestinal barriers and making it “leaky” to foreign proteins and to wheat germ agglutinin that triggers body-wide inflammation, all of which blocks the effects of insulin, making insulin resistance worse; and possibly via wheat germ agglutinin’s blocking of the hormone of satiety, leptin, generating leptin resistance.

Was there any other time in history when women could deliver a term infant by surprise? Perhaps in Victorian times or other periods characterized by extravagant gowns and elaborate clothing, women could purposefully conceal a growing baby. But could stealth pregnancy and surprise delivery have occurred in any other culture, at any other time–without the mother even noticing?

The visceral fat of wheat and carbohydrate consumption has become so commonplace that women think it’s not unusual to have a wheat-bump . . . but occasionally it’s a baby. The perversions of life that develop from this world of eating “healthy whole grains” never cease to astound.

Like This Post? Sign Up For Updates — It’s FREE!

Plus receive my latest collection of recipes, Wheatbelly Hearty Entrees!

Comments & Feedback...

  1. Lisa L.

    A high school friend has this happen to her. She was a large woman. Your article fits her experience. They had the babyshower in the hospital. I have had two children and both pregnancies were wonderful. One was a home birth. I wonder if anyone is keeping stats on these surprise pregnancies with no prenatal care. Wonder if those surprise babies are more likely to be premature? Skip the wheat and enjoy your wonderful pregnancy, ladies!

    • Dr. Davis

      It is an underappreciated modern phenomenon for which we have no statistics, Lisa.

      I fear that this will become an epidemic of surprise pregnancies for which the data will NEED to be collected: a truly odd, perverse situation.

      • Nancy

        a fetus becomes an infant, then a child. Seems some forget whole hunks of development! And since some need a lesson in biology, a fetus is called a fetus because it depends on the mother’s body to survive, it means it cannot yet survive outside the body. Fetus is not a word to separate it from its humanity. Once it can survive outside the mothers body its called a baby or an infant. Again this has nothing to do with its humanity, only to do with its place in development. If a fetus that traditionally would not survive outside the body is born, say between the weeks of 24 and 35, it is a baby/infant upon its birth because it can be helped to survive with modern medical intervention. All of this is about its place in development. If you want to call it a baby from day one of conception, that is your personal choice.

    • Adam

      Uh, no. Words have meanings. Making up new meanings in what seems like an effort to be obnoxious might be amusing to you, but it does not carry any intellectual weight.

      • cameron

        Thanks, Nancy. It’s the pro-lifers who want to make up new terms. Anyways, let’s stick to Wheatbelly stuff here. Leave reproduction rights word slinging to the politicians, since nobody pays attention to them anyway….

  2. Patina

    Ha! I turned my health around over the last year but my belly was not shrinking, maybe even growing during weightloss. I was convinced I had wheat belly because it is my most addictive food. I gave up wheat, but eventually found out I was acrually over 4 months pregnant. I’m sure I have some wheat belly though, otherwise it would have been more obvious to me, especially since this is my second baby. Anyway, a wonderful surprise nonetheless!

    • A great find in deed. You might want to check out Jack Kruse’s articles on Leptin and Epigenetics. The way you eat during pregnancy can be very important long term. Setting the baby up with good bacteria as well as many other important things.

      Its also important because its what will end up in your breast milk which you will hopefully be able to have enough of. Dr. Mercola has some good articles on alternatives for those who may not produce enough.

      I think this is a great diet for anyone including those that are about to have a baby. Seafood is full of DHA/EPA, Iodine, Selenium and more. Mercury binds to Selenium in most fish protecting you or the baby from toxicity. To further deal with any toxin concerns Wild caught from a good source is ideal. Also I’ve read you need to freeze at a certain temperature to avoid parasites.

      Congratulations on the new baby best wishes

  3. Jason D.

    On the flip side of the coin, I would bet that previously infertile couples who switch to real food might suddenly get pregnant. Perhaps the SAD diet contributes to a decreased birth rate?

    • Dr. Davis

      No question, Jason!

      Is there no limit to the adverse health effects of the standard American diet? It is an incredibly destructive thing that has been created, sufficient to impair our capacity to reproduce.

      Alongside the effects of modern wheat on our minds, could there be anything more perverse or destructive?

    • mtnmama

      Indeed I went through all sorts of infertility treatment and miscarriages before I was able to conceive and have a viable pregnancy, without grains. Only I didn’t make the connection then (10 years ago) as I was trying all manner of things at the time. Now again wheat-free, the association is crystal clear. Without going into gross detail as to how I know, the wheat-free effect on the hormone cycle is quite dramatic and readily apparent to any woman who pays attention to it.

  4. Jenny Jo

    Well, gotta comment on this one Dr. Davis! I am in my mid 50’s and I haven’t had a period for a few years now. But after starting the wheat belly diet “I had one!” Ryan & I laughed and said that if I get pregnant we are naming him “William”! That’s all I’m saying…

    • Suzie_B

      Jenny Jo,
      If you are in your 50’s and have gone through menopause and start bleeding again, go see your doctor. This happened to me and it turned out to be cancer.

      • Jeanne

        Yes, cancer is a possibility , but-
        It is far more common for women to be in perimenopause or menopause and once they lose the grains, they tend to start eating more healthy fats and it kinda jump starts hormone production again.

        Hormones are made from cholesterol, and fats. I have seen this in myself.
        I am 52, missed 3 periods, they were getting lighter- started eating Wheatbelly/ Paleo and WHAM! Periods back to normal just like clockwork.

  5. Laura F

    A friend of mine told me this happened to her grandmother. That was the only case I’d ever heard of until recently — over the past few years I’ve heard quite a few of these stories. Perhaps you’re right and it is becoming more common.

  6. I know someone that didn’t know until she was about 7 months along. Most people just don’t believe it’s possible, but looking pregnant has become normal. My husbands doc is in with an OB so the waiting room is full of pregnant women. I laughed and said that they must have sent him there because he looked pregnant before he quit eating wheat.

    • Kim

      My daughter just became pregnant and had been observing over the last year or so how many of her peers had had miscarriages. She was wondering if anyone was keeping stats on that because it appears that it is more frequent to her. She couldn’t remember a time when she was hearing about so many in such a short period of time. But that may be perhaps because she and her husband are in that phase in life and are noticing. But it is an interesting question. Are we seeing an increase in early term miscarriages (under 90 days)? And, if so, why? Just thought I would put that out there.

      • tess

        Kim, i’ve noticed that, too! of course, nowadays women KNOW they’re pregnant at an earlier stage than we did “in the old days.” ;-)

        • Bryna

          Hmmm… that is interesting. I’ve noticed that too. In one year, my sister and three cousins had miscarriages, and a couple of my sister’s friends. Is it that women have more ways of knowing they’re pregnant earlier, or something is going awry with women’s bodies? I personally believe it’s the latter.

      • Dr. Davis

        Ah: I believe you are absolutely correct, Kim.

        40 years ago and pregnancy was so darned easy. Today, people pay many tens of thousands of dollars to become pregnant.

        Take a look at my interview with fertility expert, Dr. Michael Fox, on my Heart Scan Blog.

        • JJ in Toon Town

          Thank you for posting that interview. How fascinating! I had a friend who had trouble conceiving (and then staying pregnant). Her doctor put her on a no sugar, no gluten, low carb diet and she is now on child number three. Interesting for sure.

          • Dr. Davis

            Yes, I’ve seen this happen, too! And I’ve heard similar stories from a fertility expert friend of mine.

            Think of all the women going through fertility evaluations and in vitro fertilization–much of it unnecessary!

      • With my limited knowledge I’d guess that it has to do with the extremely bad hormonal and environmental toxic environments. The wrong kinds of hormones, bacteria, fats etc… all tie in somehow.

        I don’t know enough to explain exactly how, but I’d be surprised if I were wrong. If everyone were eating an optimal diet and dealing with stress better I have a feeling miscarriages would be down and healthy births up by a ton.

        The scourge of bad eating including things like Gluten, GMOs, and other altered foods and environmental stresses make it either harder or impossible for more and more women to conceive or come to full term.

  7. Aria

    I would add that with PCOS becoming more prevalent, women also have erratic periods. For years I had NO periods. If by some miracle I’d gotten pregnant, the lack of periods would not have been an indicator.

  8. nowheater

    How many people went into early menopause? Had endometriosis due to stress, being obese, etc? I would have been happy to have had a baby, that would have been really cool, to think I was going through menopause, then out pops a baby. I couldn’t have a baby when I tried and tried. . Went to fertility docs and all.

  9. Jeanne

    Undiagnosed celiac disease is a big contributor to infertility problems. FYI. Once the couple ditch the wheat and gluten, a huge percentage go on to conceive and deliver a healthy baby.

    Back in the the late 90’s and early 2000’s I worked neonatal ICU and was personally very aware of celiac and the secondary issues, but the few Docs I tried to discuss this with thought I was in left field.
    NOT ANYMORE! Ha ha. More and more docs are familiar with the consequences of gluten intolerance issues and would never give me the blank stares I encountered several years back. My my what a decade or so will do to mindset…if it weren’t so tragic for the patients I would be laughing about now.

    Fast forward to today -and I believe we should look beyond just the celiac and gluten intolerance/sensitivity, to the effect of all grains on our fertility, hormone production etc. of course , wheat being the worst offender.

    Just my 2 cents, and honest opinion.

  10. Lindsey

    This weekend a dear sweet friend at church, who was leading the song service, bolted from the stage and out the sanctuary doors for the restroom. DH said ‘bet she’s pregnant.’ I told him, we can’t ask. You know that joke about never asking a woman if she’s pregnant unless you actually see a baby exiting her body (I think it was Bill Cosby)? It’s true. We can’t ask her because if she’s not… well, she looks like she is. But she’s always looked that way so we can’t make any presumptions, apparent morning sickness notwithstanding.

    • Dr. Davis

      Thanks for posting, Sm!

      Sayer Ji is doing good work over at Green Med Info. He has some clever insights and is worth reading.

  11. Cara

    I’ve had several friends who have been recently diagnosed with celiac disease. We’re all 21 y/o, and it was discovered within the past 1.5 years. It’s kind of scary that it took each one of us almost 20 years of being sick before it was diagnosed!

    Anyways- Yes, I’m absolutely sure my Mom has celiac disease (thin as a rail, sick). She had me nearly 3 months early at 1 lb 10 oz. This is no coincidence, I’m sure. I wonder if there is any connection to being the pre-mature one and the most gluten intolerant of all of us.

    I can’t convince my family of what they do not want to hear. The big weight loss secret revealed, and no one wants to know if it involves giving up “a food group”. Damn.

    I have met a lot of women in their young 20’s who couldn’t have a baby and found out celiac or gluten intolerance was the cause. Crazy.

    • Dr. Davis

      This is an area that I’d like to see vigorously explored, perhaps one that we will be able to fund via the Wheat Free Research and Education Foundation we’ve started.

      Disruption of pregnancy, infertility, perhaps even provocation of the in utero changes related to autism–these are truly huge issues that would put a nail in the coffin for wheat.

      • What are your thoughts on going back to other strains of wheat like Emmer or Einkorn. Sure it doesn’t work as well for some things but it would be better than modern wheat even used in flour and other standard processed foods.

        It certainly isn’t ideal but for those that just don’t want to drop wheat it might be better than nothing.

        I’ve seen Einkorn on sale at Tropical Traditions and am tempted to try it…for curiosity. I’m doing Paleo and I don’t have to have wheat, but am curious if it would make close approximations of things without being as bad.

        • Shirley

          I recently had some einkorn cookies made by the Jovial Co. The wheat is grown in Italy. Pretty good, but gave me cravings the next day.

  12. Sue

    Yes please Dr Davis, do you have an opinion on the older strains of wheat? Even to grains closer to us in time. Our Grandparents and Great Grandparents ate a lot of bread and flour, but what strain would that have been? When did this monster arrive?

    • Boundless

      Use your preferred external search engine on term “heirloom”, restricting the domain to here. For Google, that would be a search string of:

      > When did this monster arrive?
      Nose in the tent in 1960.
      Took over the camp in 1985.
      Heirlooms are not much of a decrease in damage. What people ate was considerably different prior to cheap ubiquitous techno-wheat.

    • Dr. Davis

      Your grandparents ate something closer to traditional wheat, the 4 1/2-foot tall that predate the genetic manipulations of the 1960s-1970s.

      But, no matter how far back we go, wheat NEVER becomes completely benign, just less harmful. This is true of all forms. We know, for instance, that ancient people who added the first wild growing einkorn wheat experienced adverse health reactions. So no form of wheat is truly healthy, just less harmful.

      The analogy I draw is to propose that I’ve made a cigarette that is 80% less likely to cause lung cancer. Is that good enough?