Symptom Spotting & the Dreaded “Mind Fetus”

Ugh, I hate that phrase, “mind fetus,” but it’s rather fitting. If you’ve spent any time at all on baby making forums, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Abbreviated MF and sometimes referred to as “mind fuck,” it’s the inevitable outcome of symptom spotting (another common phrase that pops up on TTC forums, but, inexplicably, does not have an abbreviation).

Any woman who has ever tried to get pregnant, whether for 2 months or 2 years, has engaged in symptom spotting. Every twinge, bubble, cramp, burp, yawn, sneeze, and eye twitch is examined with a ruthless attention to detail usually reserved only for mathematicians and the crazy Trekkies who know every inconsistency in the Star Trek universe.

It’s an involuntary function, symptom spotting. We can no more stop paying attention to our bodies’ every possibly-pregnancy-related sensation than we can stop blinking or sweating. Sure, you can distract yourself for a while, but it always creeps back in. Even those of us who have been in the trenches for a long time still do it. I’m the first person to tell another woman that symptom spotting is pointless, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t do it. Like I said, there’s no way to stop it, short of going into a coma for two weeks. (Hey, that’s not a bad idea….)

I don’t even try to stop the symptom spotting anymore. But, what I have stopped doing is assigning any significance – positive or negative – to the myriad sensations. Until recently, that is.

Two days ago, I woke up dizzy. That is not an inaccurate choice of words. The moment I rolled over to turn off my alarm, the room started spinning. After a few moments, it stopped, so I got out of bed. Correction: I tried to get out of bed. Once I started to stand up, the world started spinning again, and my ass landed back on the bed real quick. Again, it didn’t last long, but I was much more careful with my movements from that point on. As long as I didn’t shift the position of my head too much, too quickly, I was relatively fine. I made it through the day without incident. A few more dizzy spells, but nothing that caused me to worry.

Worry, no. Start decorating the nursery, yes. (Okay, maybe I didn’t go that far, but you get the picture.) What else could explain the sudden vertigo? In my narrow mind, nothing. It didn’t matter that I was a mere 7 days past ovulation, or that I had experienced this very same phenomenon years ago (it went away on its own) when I was most certainly not pregnant. Logic fled the premises the moment my head started spinning. Certainly this meant I was with child!

Fast forward to today, when a brief call to my doctor explained everything. She didn’t even need to see me to know what it was: benign positional vertigo. (For the record, I will see her for an exam this afternoon, to rule out anything more serious.) Basically, it’s an inner ear disturbance, in which a small piece of calcium breaks loose and floats around, making my brain all confused about my body’s position. It’s completely harmless. And completely unrelated to my uterus. Boy, did I feel stupid.

So, despite my best efforts, I was duped by the mind fuck that is “mind fetus.” I could be pregnant, but, as I often tell other women looking for those rare early symptoms of a uterine inhabitant, so-called “symptoms” are nothing more than normal bodily functions, enhanced by wishful thinking; or, as in my case, something abnormal but not even remotely related to possible pregnancy. Bottom line, there’s no way to know for sure. Even if you do end up pregnant, that bout of diarrhea you had two days before your BFP could have been caused by any number of things. I know this, because I’ve had pretty much every “symptom” you can imagine, including quite a few never before ones, and I have yet to get pregnant.

Yeah, I know I sound like a Negative Nelly, stomping all over your “Aaah! I sneezed! I never sneeze, so I must be pregnant!!” fun. That’s what 2.5 years of infertility will do to you. You get tired of listening to others symptom spot; you get tired of doing it yourself, month after month after month. Even if you can successfully ignore it most of the time, it’s always there, brewing just under the surface, ready to fuck with your head at any moment.

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24 thoughts on “Symptom Spotting & the Dreaded “Mind Fetus”

  1. Symptom spotting or trying to is the absolute worst. Supposedly I’m pregnant at this moment with no symptoms in site. That’s when things get even crazier…. am I sick? Are my boobs sort? My butt hurts, is that a symptom? Someone should put me out of my misery.

  2. I am 6 dpo/iui and am symptom spotting as well….I feel ya! At least this cycle I have resigned myself that the trigger is usually still in my system at 10-12 dpo, so I vow to wait until the 14 dpo recommended by my RE;). Yeah, right.

  3. LOL when you get to 5 years of infertility, you no longer think that ANY symptom is pregnancy. Everyone could be crowding around you telling you that you might be pregnant, and with absolute conviction you can tell them you are most assuredly that you are NOT. Good luck though!

  4. I haven’t heard “mind fetus,” but I’ve definitely had a few! Being on meds like progesterone adds a whole new complexity to the symptom spotting. When will they develop early, early, EARLY result pregnancy tests???

  5. I had vertigo similar to yours and it was not fun. It’s not a serious health problem but it is debilitating when it happens. I had to learn how NOT to tilt my head so the position doesn’t induce vertigo. No fun. 😦 It happened when I also began to have sinus problems. Both problems went away after I did acupuncture.

  6. “Even if you can successfully ignore it most of the time, it’s always there, brewing just under the surface, ready to fuck with your head at any moment.”

    YES TO THIS. Ugh, I am usually pretty good at ignoring my evil little brain during the two week wait. But sometimes, just sometimes, that nasty little bugger will throw something new at me. Usually some sort of cramp or weird twinge that I think “hmm, could be implantation”. And guess what? It’s never implantation.

    My other favorite is when I symptom spot BEFORE I’ve even ovulated. I forget that I’m no longer in the my 2ww and I’ll think “huh, what was that” before I realize I am a moron and there is no way I’m pregnant because it’s only CD 6. It’s…embarrassing, but luckily I’m the only one who knows I’ve done it. And now all of you do too.

    • Oh, I’ve been there, too! Have you ever tested AFTER your period? You know, “Gee, my period was kind of lighter than normal…” Yeah, I’ve done that. :/

  7. I had never heard of mind fetus and I really don’t like this expression. But I’ve definitely had a few mind fetuses myself… I’ve tested even when it was so clearly obvious that I could not be pregnant….

  8. Before I knew that I was pregnant before the loss I was actively ignoring the symptom spotting because I figured it was just another “mind fetus.” Now that I think back I can identify at least one thing that was a very different feeling than I’ve had before, which means I’ll probably be looking for that every month from now on. There is no stopping it.

    • Same here. With my m/c pregnancy, just before my BFP, I had really bad lower back pain that was distinct from my normal back pain. I thought for sure that was a pregnancy sign, so I started looking for it again, but it turns out I get it every other cycle or so. I was devastated.

  9. I’m def guilty of symptom spotting despite common sense telling me toget a grip, but there’s always that little bit of hope in the back of your mind that says what if? Ugh! Well, I’m glad your dizziness wasn’t somethin serious!

    • Ugh, that little kernel of hope! You’re right: that’s the culprit. I honestly believe I would be much happier and saner if it just disappeared.

  10. I would symptom spot all the time, even when I knew there was zero chance I was actually pregnant. Now that I am, I totally talk myself out of symptoms, waiting for impending doom. Yeah, my boobs are sore, but it’s the damn PIO injections. I have to pee all the time, but that could totally be in my head, right? Stupid mind games.

    • It’s so unfair the crap that infertility burdens us with. We of all people deserve to have calm, healthy pregnancies after all we go through to get pregnant.

  11. It’s so tough because part of the infertility dance is being hyper attuned to your body – we’re constantly being poked and prodded and swallowing pills and jabbing ourselves with needles. We’re involved in our bodies in a way that is usually new and hyper attentive – which only magnifies the mind fetus-ness of things. Hang in there and here’s hoping for more definitive pregnancy symptoms… not that you’d spot for them… 🙂

  12. Mind Fetus is a new term for me, but I’ve totally got it. It comes up all the time regardless of if I could even possibly be pregnant or not. Any intestinal twitch triggers a whole complex series of mental calculations to determine if it’s possible and what it might mean. Hope your vertigo is doing better.

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