Listen to me: getting pregnant has a certain physical requirement that I have not fulfilled in a very long time!
A character finds herself (or himself
) - or he finds his female partner - pregnant, after being declared infertile by doctors. Also occurs when the prospective parents are of different species (comics, sci-fi) or when the parents are already of grandparenting age. Often, the male will accuse his partner of cheating, only to eat crow later when medical tests (either on himself or a paternity test) proves he's the father. In television, this trope is often the result of an actress' real-life pregnancy
. A favored trope of soap operas.
See also: But We Used a Condom
, Law of Inverse Fertility
, Surprise Pregnancy
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Anime and Manga
- In the last issue of the Hentai Boys Empire, Hitomi finds out she's pregnant. She's all of twelve, and this is her first ovulation. She had no way of knowing until it was too late. (Note that this is possible in real life as well, although the odds of miscarriage are higher.)
- In The Great Ten, this is part of Mother of Champions' backstory. She was incredulous when she discovered she was pregnant, for a number of reasons - one, because her husband had recently left her due to her inability to conceive, and two, because she was visibly pregnant the day after her drunken one-night stand. As it turns out, she'd developed a special, ahem, gift, giving birth to twenty five boys days later.
- Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch, got this twice. First, she conceived a child even though her husband was the android Vision. Second, while delivering her son, she turned out to be carrying twins, even though neither science nor magic had detected a second baby. The twins' existence was eventually explained through a combination of Wanda's reality-warping powers and demonic interference.
- Wanda's fellow Avenger Ms. Marvel also once found herself pregnant without knowing how and then within a matter of days came to full term, delivering a boy in the infamous Avengers #200. It turned out to be a sordid story of Marcus, son of the timetravelling Immortus, abducting Carol Danvers, rewriting her memories, and using her to give birth to himself so that he could live with her. To make it worse none of the Avengers seemed at all bothered by this until a later issue by Chris Claremont had Carol come back and deliver an epic What the Hell, Hero? the the Avengers (and presumably the editors who let that one slip by).
- In Timing is Everything, Raven is shocked when she gets pregnant - she's only supposed to be capable of having children with someone who has demon blood. However, she's dating Beast Boy, and apparently his shapeshifting abilities extend to his sperm enough to fool Raven's reproductive system.
- Starman: After he and Jenny made love on the train Starman proclaims "I gave you a baby tonight." Jenny says that this is impossible because she is incapable of having a child. Starman explains that he used his powers to alleviate this.
- In Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Abe finds out that Liz is pregnant with Hellboy's children. Later, Liz is seen going through about four or five pregnancy tests, on account of the pregnancy being physically impossible for several reasons.
- Baby Mama: at the end of the film, Kate, who was supposed to be infertile or close to, discovers that she is pregnant.
- Village of the Damned (from the sci-fi novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham). Aliens impregnate every woman of child-bearing age in a small English town. Initial reactions range from joy (from a previously childless couple) to suspicion (from a husband who's been away at sea) to the above incredulous reaction from a teenage virgin.
- Dogma. Despite having been infertile for apparently years, at the end of the movie Bethany is told by Metatron that she's miraculously pregnant (necessary because she's the Last Scion - need to keep that bloodline going). It's heavily implied that because she's a descendant of the Virgin Mary her pregnancy is similar to Mary's conception of Jesus.
- The Czech films Divided We Fall and Little Otik both in a sense follow this trope and subvert it. Both couples in both films are infertile (in both cases it seems it is HIS fault, not hers), and both couples get around nature to create a child, either a real one - by using someone else to impregnate the wife (Divided We Fall) or a monstrous one, by using a piece of wood carved into the rough shape of a child as a doll, which then comes to life and starts to devour the household (Little Otik). In each case, it is the neighbours who are forced to suspend their disbelief at the "fact" the wife is pregnant, rather than the couple themselves, who collude in trying to bring a child into the world.
- Once Bella becomes pregnant in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Edward asks if it's even possible as he is a vampire (who doesn't age) and Bella is a human.
- When you consider it, that's not the question he should be asking. The real question is, how did a being with no functioning circulatory system manage to - ahem - get happy?
- In the film Women in Trouble, porn starlet Elektra Luxx is informed by her doctor that she is now gravid, and she responds by quoting this trope's name almost verbatim:
Elektra Luxx: I can't be pregnant.
Doctor: Are you a virgin?
Doctor: Then you can be pregnant.
- A really interesting example in the French-Canadian film Familia: teenage Marguerite learns she is pregnant, but she's never had sex. Though not really religious, she begins to wonder if this is a second virgin birth. She eventually learns that someone slipped her a date-rape drug at a party; she thought she had just been really drunk.
- Prometheus uses this in the most horrifying way imaginable: Even though she is unable to bear children, Elizabeth finds out that she is indeed pregnant, but with an alien abomination. And so she performs an emergency surgery on herself whilst conscious in order to remove the creature from her womb.
- In Hannah And Her Sisters, Mickey is diagnosed as infertile years before the events in the film but by the end his new wife Holly is pregnant.
- Janette Oke's Prairie Romance series, starting with Love Comes Softly, develops a huge clan of children under the care and guidance of main character Marty and her husband (Davis?). Several books down the line, after Oke had "officially" finished the series, the series starts back up with Marty realizing that she is again pregnant... and thinking it beyond embarrassing that her daughter will be younger than several of her grandchildren.
- In the The Time Traveler's Wife Clare gets pregnant after Henry has a vasectomy, by having sex with an early version of Henry who traveled from before his surgery.
- In Monsieur Malaussène by Daniel Pennac, a nun whose chastity is beyond doubt becomes pregnant. There are a number of pregnancies in this novel; this being Pennac, they're not straightforward.
- In Heinrich von Kleist's 1808 novella, The Marquise of O, the titular Marquise finds herself mysteriously pregnant and places an announcement in the newspaper demanding the unknown father of her child identify himself so she can marry him. It turns out the father is a Russian count who ravished her while she was unconscious. They do indeed marry and eventually come to have a happy marriage.
- In the Alien Nation Expanded Universe novel Cross of Blood, Tectonese Cathy Frankel turned out to be pregnant. This came as a shock to her human boyfriend Detective Matt Sikes, because among the Tectonese, pregnancy can only occur when the female is inseminated by a "third" gender or "catalyst." It is later discovered that, due to their genetic adaptability, a Human/Tectonese pairing can result in pregnancy. Unfortunately, Matt and Cathy's child was unable to survive after being born, due to her mixed genetics.
- In John Varley's Titan, the female members of the spaceship crew all turn out to be pregnant after they're released into Gaea's interior. This trope especially applies to April Polo, a lesbian who's never had sex with a man.
- Arguably subverted by the fact that, unlikely as these conceptions might be, none of the characters propose any alternative explanation for their failure to menstruate (e.g. wondering if they'd been sterilized rather than impregnated). There's little actual denial, just dismay.
- Later in the series, the trope applies to both of Robin's pregnancies.
- There is a Swedish short story in which a man who thinks he's sterile is in the habit of killing his girlfriends when they become pregnant because he can't handle the fact that they have apparently cheated on him. It isn't until after several murders that he finds out it's actually his twin brother who's sterile, not him.
- In Jacqueline Carrey's Santa Olivia, a genetically modified man overhears scientists discussing his apparent sterility. After he escapes, he meets a woman and they have sex. Lo and behold...she gets pregnant with his daughter.
- In the Deverry novels, Rhys' first wife is cast aside for being barren. Her mother-in-law arranges for her to remarry to a widower with several children from a previous marriage (and as such would not need to care as to whether or not his new wife could provide an heir). Shortly afterwords, she surprises everyone by getting pregnant, and later gives birth to a healthy boy. It seems that she wasn't the sterile one in her previous marriage...
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Friday, the titular protagonist is sterile by permanent (but reversible) surgery, and is therefore extremely surprised to discover that she's expecting during a long interstellar voyage. It turns out that her employers pulled a fast one on her, implanting the embryo she was supposed to deliver to a wealthy couple in her rather than keeping it in a stasis capsule. She concludes from this that they plan to kill her at the end of her mission, and decides to jump ship early. She ends up raising the child as her own.
- In Breaking Dawn Bella has this moment on realizing she had missed her period, considering her husband was a vampire and thus shouldn't have been able to impregnate her. (Let's leave aside the part where there are many other reasons besides his vampness that he shouldn't have been able to impregnate anyone.)
- In the Honor Harrington series, like all female officers, Honor has a contraceptive implant that keeps her from getting pregnant while on duty in space. However, after her "return from the dead" following a faked execution, her closed service record is reactivated, and the date of her last implant renewal is accidentally reset to the reactivation date. As a result, her doctor does not renew the implant in time, and Honor becomes pregnant with Hamish Alexander's child.
Live Action TV
Religion & Mythology
- Examples from The Bible:
- Sarah, already ninety, laughed when the messengers told her hundred-year-old husband Abraham about the prophecy of her pregnancy. Sure enough they had a son, Isaac, whose name means "laughter."
- Subverted with the Virgin Mary in the synoptic Gospels, since she knew beforehand that she'd be the mother of Christ (though that's because she thought to ask about it), but Joseph quite understandably suspected her of infidelity until an angel appeared to him personally to set him straight. Her apparently dubious story is that she is pregnant, "having known no man." (The Father was not a man of course)
- There's also the infertility example with Elizabeth and Zechariah, parents of John the Baptist. (And like the aforementioned Abraham and Sarah, they were pretty old.) Here it was the priest Zechariah who uttered the "but that's impossible" line and got struck dumb until the child was born for expressing his doubts that God could do such a thing. (Considering his profession, he might have known better.)
- In the Vampire: The Masquerade supplement Time of Thin Blood, it's revealed that fifteenth-generation vampires can accidentally or intentionally reactivate various bodily functions temporarily— including the reproductive system, enabling them to produce offspring with humans.
- The Werewolf: The Apocalypse adventure Rage Across the Heavens largely revolves around a werewolf cub born of two supposedly infertile Metis werewolves (the parents are both offspring of two werewolves, rather than one werewolf and either a human or a wolf).
- Normally, Prometheans are infertile until they finally become human, but one very rare possibility is that they manage to have a baby of their own, whether with a human or another Promethean. The kids turn out both mortal and normal... except that they can sense Azoth and are completely immune to Disquiet.
- Fetches are infertile as well, being magical constructs. Under certain exceptional circumstances, however, they may produce offspring. Fifty percent chance it's a nightmarish thing of evil, fifty percent chance it's mostly normal but with some sort of Ambiguous Disorder and with blood that poisons the True Fae.
- Played with in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, when Rose tells Jack she's pregnant but it's part of a surreal sequence of events where you can't trust anything that's happening. Also, it's possible she can't be pregnant because she might not actually exist. It turns out she is, and, obviously, she does, but the whole of Metal Gear Solid 2 was such a Mind Screw that it takes until the fourth game for any of this to be clear.
- Paradise: In "Reverberations," a story in this setting, a gender-bent character's unexpected pregnancy causes the Masquerade concealing her new gender from friends and family members to fail.
- Happens a couple of times in Chakona Space due to meddlesome Rakshani fertility deities.
- Inverted in South Park, where Ms. Garrison assumes that not having a period after having a lot of random, unprotected sex with random men has made her pregnant (she becomes excited because now she can have an abortion). The doctor informs her that as a transsexual, she lacks both a uterus and eggs, and therefore is not physically capable of getting pregnant. Ms. Garrison claims the doctor is a bigot.
- Comes up every now and again when Maury does paternity tests — a man who has been declared infertile/had a vasectomy will demand a paternity test on his girlfriend/wife's child, for obvious reasons. A surprisingly large percentage turn out to be the child's father after all.
- A ridiculous example was this teenage girl who brought this guy onto the Sally Jesse Raphael show because she was convinced he was the father, because apparently he was the only guy she'd slept with. He was relieved when it turned out not to be his child, but she was still really confused. Turns out that she'd been regularly sleeping with her step-brother, and she was under the impression that she couldn't get pregnant by him. He was the father, of course.
- Subverted in the Strikeforce Mixed Martial Arts promotion before the highly-publicized August 2009 fight between Gina "Conviction" Carano and Christine "Cyborg" Santos to crown American MMA's first female 145-lb champion. Santos' management called Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker the day before the fight and told him that the California State Athletic Comission had just informed them that Santos was pregnant and wouldn't be allowed to fight. They called back a few minutes later and informed a panicking Coker that it was just a joke.
- Truth in Television. Infertility is not the same as sterility and a sufficiently fertile female partner can compensate for a low sperm count. There have been recorded incidences where men with vasectomies have fathered children. Same thing for females who have had an operation. And at least one particularly fertile couple where both had the operation, and a child was produced anyway.
- There are also cases where a couple fails to conceive despite fertility treatments, but end up pregnant soon after "giving up". It is said that stress can be a factor to infertility some times, and "trying" to conceive may make matters worse.
- Denial is a big issue for some featured on Not Always Right.
- Horrifying variation from France, where "at least five" women were in such a state of denial/trauma over their pregnancies that they killed the newborns and hid the bodies — in some cases over a half-dozen times — and forgot it ever happened. The woman in the latest case had had a difficult pregnancy and was too scared to go to the doctor, and her husband didn't notice anything unusual (eight times) because she was chubby. The doctor quoted in the report feels that "pregnancy denial" is a legitimate psychological problem and that it's foolish to think it's exclusively French.
- There was a similar example in the summer of 1997 in New Jersey, where a young woman named Melissa Drexler, dubbed "The Prom Mom" slipped out of her prom, gave birth in the bathroom, strangled the baby and left his body in the garbage, then returned to the prom to eat and dance. No one ever remembered her even looking as though she were pregnant, not even a girlfriend who had been trying on dresses with her only weeks before. It's believed that fear of her parents' anger led her to be in denial over her pregnancy.
- There was a documentary on women having affairs on Discovery Health Channel which had an Asian couple who had trouble having children. Eventually, she got pregnant. Unfortunately, she neglected to tell her husband that it was another man's child. He found out when she had an African-American baby.
- The TLC show I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant is dedicated to real life examples of this, usually either couples who thought they couldn't have kids, women who had their tubes tied, or party girls who didn't want to get pregnant.
- Or, in rare cases, where women menstruated throughout their whole pregnancy, didn't gain weight, and didn't feel the baby moving. It's one in a million, but it can happen.
- Irregular periods are another culprit. One young woman was anemic, and her periods were light and always several months apart, and what little weight she gained was thought to be from her eating habits.
- In other cases, the women experienced minor bleeding throughout their pregnancy and thought that was their period.
- In rare cases, a girl who has sex after ovulating for the first time, but before getting her first period, can still get pregnant and she wouldn't know it for a while.
- False pregnancy, or pseudocyesis, is the exact inversion of this trope in real life (and sometimes even in fiction.)