Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am a nurse, writing in response to the letter from "Flabbergasted Parents in New Mexico" (July 19). I have worked in small community hospitals and in the emergency rooms of trauma centers in larger cities. Over the years, I have seen many young ladies in their early 20s come into the ER with abdominal pain. When asked if there is a "possibility" that they could be pregnant, they say no. Even after a pelvic exam, when they are being taken up to labor and delivery, they deny they are having a baby.

This is like a pseudo-pregnancy, where the person thinks she is pregnant and has all the symptoms but isn't, in REVERSE. In their minds, these ladies feel that the possibility of pregnancy is not an option — so mind-over-matter takes over.

"Taryn," the girl in the letter, was probably not lying. She just could not face the truth until her baby actually came. Our bodies are amazing vehicles when you think about it.

— TRISHA IN NORTH BALTIMORE, OHIO

DEAR TRISHA: And so are our minds, apparently. I have a stack of mail on my desk verifying the fact that it's not unheard of for a woman to carry a baby well into pregnancy — and even to term — without knowing she's pregnant. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: As an RN, I have seen this happen several times. Most interesting was a middle-aged mother of two teenagers. Because both had been delivered by scheduled C-section, she had never experienced labor pains.

She had always been "chubby" and had been premenopausal with irregular periods for some time. She thought she had finally entered menopause and that the strange sensations she had been experiencing for the past few months were just "gas." Now she was truly scared, thinking the pain she was experiencing meant something was dreadfully wrong.

She and her husband were shocked at the diagnosis — a full-term pregnancy in active labor! Needless to say, she was taken to surgery for another C-section.

— RN IN TEXAS

DEAR ABBY: In late November of 1964, I went to my M.D. with a horrible backache. I'd had my periods all along and no abdominal discomfort. After examining me, he congratulated me on my near-term pregnancy!

Needless to say, I was caught off guard and questioned the diagnosis. My daughter was born two months later. You could call it the shortest pregnancy ever.

By the way, I'm a nurse and have seen this happen more than once.

— SHERRY IN NEVADA

DEAR ABBY: I had my period the whole nine months. I only learned I was pregnant at seven months because I passed out. I also know of an OB nurse who didn't know she was pregnant until she delivered. (Boy, was SHE surprised!)

If the girl in that letter got pregnant because of rape or sexual abuse, she may have blocked the memory of it happening. As for not knowing what was happening during and after delivery — if she had blocked out the traumatic event, then she may have blocked out the birth process as well.

— FUTURE COUNSELOR IN SPRINGFIELD, OHIO

DEAR ABBY: I worked for a school of medicine in the Southwest for seven years, and I was amazed at the number of women who had no idea they were pregnant or how it had happened. Sadly, there are still groups of people out there who don't discuss sex, and the consequences of unprotected sex, with their children. Unlikely as it seems, that poor girl may have been telling the truth when she said she "didn't know what was going on." Hopefully, she will now become better educated about such things.

— CONNIE IN COLORADO

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.