Pregnancy and gestation can usually be hidden at least a couple of months after a woman discovers she is pregnant. For this reason, a pregnant woman always holds a slight edge in the information department over the father of the child in that she can generally control the time and place of The Reveal
Sometimes, though, she'll decide to simply not reveal at all. At least not right away. And often never, at least on purpose. The character in question has decided to have a secret pregnancy.
This might, of course, sound cruel and unnecessarily mean, but there are several reasons for why she would want to do such a thing. If the father is an insane, planet-killing psycho worried that his spawn will one day try to kill him and steal his power, well, secret might be a good idea. If he's an irresponsible lout, she might decide the kid would be better off without him, since he would just be a Glorified Sperm Donor
. She might just want to be a single mom for some reason. Or she can't think of any good way to tell him
and is just "waiting for the right time". Even if it's several years from now. Perhaps she was drunk, or otherwise does not know in Who's Your Daddy?
, or believes that the father will not believe her in Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe
Sometimes she'll keep a secret because she loves him too much to tie him down. The father rarely appreciates this selfless gesture when he finds out.
Also note that the father is simply the most common individual from whom the secret is kept. A sufficiently advanced Ancient Conspiracy
may also or instead be the target of the secret. In some cases, the woman herself
may be completely in the dark because she hasn't experienced the regular symptoms. A woman with irregular periods, for example, might not notice a significant change.
Note that in Real Life
there are cases in which a woman literally doesn't know she's pregnant
until well into the second or third trimester, and sometimes not until birth. Whether it's due to mental problems, drugs, extremes of weight, carrying the baby unusually (more common than young people realize), or whatever, it's somewhat rare but not extremely so. In 2008, for instance, an average-sized, otherwise perfectly healthy woman in England carried twins
to 28 weeks without showing or missing a period; she found out she was pregnant less than two weeks before the babies were born prematurely at two pounds each. (They both survived.)
Not to be confused with Hide Your Pregnancy
, which is the meta version of this.
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Anime and Manga
- In the manga My Girl by Sahara Mizu, the hero's high school girlfriend ends up going abroad to study just to hide her pregnancy (and later, the child herself) from him — she doesn't want to burden him with it. (Of course, then she dies, and he's stuck with the kid anyway...)
- The manga March on Earth. The hero's older sister chooses not to tell the father of her child so that he won't cancel his career-vital overseas stay, and keeps who the father is secret from everyone else so that they won't contact him. She doesn't anticipate dying and having the younger sister get a Promotion to Parent since there's literally no other living relative.
- In One Piece, Portgas D. Ace's mother Rouge hid her pregnancy for 20 months to keep the World Government from finding her son, whose father was none other than Gold Roger. Seeing as humans in One Piece are Made of Iron she pulled this off, though she died soon after he was born from the strain.
- In Usagi Yojimbo, Usagi returns to his home village for a time, where his former love has been married to another man for several years. The woman has a kid, and Usagi grows quite fond of the little tyke, especially since the guy starts calling him "Uncle". Before long, however, the revelations start: It's really Usagi's kid, of course, and his love didn't want to tie him down (since he's a samurai who needs to be able to travel). After a discussion, Usagi decides not to stick around, lest he drive a wedge between the boy and his adoptive father. Then, somewhat later, it's revealed that the boy knows that he's Usagi's kid. But neither Usagi nor the kid is willing to tell the other, believing that the other doesn't know.
- Aside from that, there's also Kahvi from ElfQuest, who can't hide her pregnancy, but does tell the father that it's not his kid, and that the kid died shortly after birth anyway. Then she raises the kid as the ultimate counter-weapon to the father's incredible magic power (and ego).
- The infamous Sins Past storyline that retconned in Gwen Stacy becoming pregnant with and giving birth to twins (albeit in appreciably less than nine months) without Peter or anyone else noticing into the continuity of early 1970s The Amazing Spider-Man.
- Rose Canton (the Golden Age Thorn) pulled this one on Alan Scott (the Golden Age Green Lantern. First she married him under a false identity, then she disappeared during the honeymoon, after an explosion that led him to think she had been killed. She had twins, which she gave up for adoption out of fear that her evil Thorn self would harm them, and they grew up to be the superheroes Jade and Obsidian. (Note: this is the short version!)
- In the Bronze Age incarnation of Superman, the Kents claimed that Clark was born from one of these. Since Martha Kent had miscarried multiple earlier children, the neighbors were willing to accept her not wanting to mention being pregnant again, and since Clark was 'born' in the middle of winter after a massive blizzard snowed the Kents in for well over a month, nobody other than her husband would have seen her during the time frame when she would have have been visibly pregnant, so everyone accepted their explanation.
- In one Metal Gear Fan Fic, it was mentioned that The Boss kept her pregnancy secret from her higher-ups, because she was nervous word might get back to The Philosophers, and they'd take her kid from her. She was right.
- Shows up in The Second Try, though it is a massive spoiler. Due to her mess of insecurities, Asuka was rather freaked out when she discovered she was pregnant and had tried to hide it from Shinji (She even went as far as to starve herself in a misguided attempt to induce a miscarriage). He only found out after a rat got into their trash and he stumbled onto a positive pregnancy test Asuka tried to hide. To say he was surprised would have been an understatement.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon's pregnancy was this. It helped the mother-to-be was young and a late bloomer, had a Friendless Background and by the time she realized her pregnancy the father-to-be stopped visiting her for a few months because they lived in opposite sides of Japan.
- Padmé Amidala does this in scenes whenever she is appearing in public. George Lucas said this was intentional.
- In the movie Waitress, she tries her hardest to keep her pregnancy a secret from her nasty deadbeat abusive husband, and was planning to run away with her gynecologist. For several months he actually thought she was just fat. She also decides to keep this from her demanding boss for a time so it might not interfer with work. Humorously, the boss actually knows when she tells him ("You thought I thought you went out and got fat? I don't care if you work while giving birth."
- In Dreamgirls, Effie never tells anyone about her pregnancy once she's kicked out of the show. She tried to give Curtis a hint but he never picked up on it. He finally catches on after seeing Effie's pre-teen daughter at the end of the film.
- In Saved, good little Catholic girl Mary has sex with her gay boyfriend in an attempt to "cure" him. She successfully hides the resulting pregnancy for months because pregnancy at her school is "about as common as the bubonic plague."
- In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Centaurus Changeling, Beth hides her pregnancy from her husband. The only problem is that, as she soon discovers, the air on the planet they are living on is highly poisonous to pregnant women... And it is revealed in the end that she was mind-conrolled by a local to get pregnant without him knowing.
- In romance novels, the most common reasons are either that she doesn't want to make the man feeled tied down (because she's been sleeping with him but doesn't want him feel like she trapped him into a marriage.
- Commonly in historical novels the man will find out before the birth*, otherwise it can be years before the hero meets the heroine again and discovers that he has a child. Usually the hero will be angry at the loss of time with his son/daughter. Often a Sturgeon's Tropes in the genre.
- In Tom Clancy's novel The Bear and the Dragon, a woman living in the People's Republic of China conceals that she's pregnant, as the unborn child falls afoul of the PRC's "One Child" policy, and thus would be subject to being aborted. (While one can get a permit for another child, when the first has died, as was the case in this example, the woman in question was part of a known Christian family, so the obstructive bureaucrats of the region denied the couple's permit request.)
- The Thornbirds
- Meggie goes so far as to sleep with her estranged husband one last time to create an alibi. Justified, as the actual biological father is a Catholic priest. He only finds out years later, after Hilarity most definitely does not ensue.
- Southern Discomfort by Rita Mae Brown
- In The Dark Tower novel "Wolves of the Calla", Susannah is becoming pregnant, but decides not to tell Roland, Eddie or Jake for a long time, since she is also still having her periods. In the next novel, we find her baby is half-Crimson King, half-Roland man/spider hybrid Mordred, although, strangely, Mia is the actual mother and performed a Grand Theft Me on Susannah.
- In Anne McCaffrey's Acorna Series, Acorna's pregnancy wasn't a secret (In fact, her mother detects it before she does). The fact that she was pregnant with twins was. One of the embryos was stolen from her by Graymalkin, one of the race of aliens responsible for creating her species (who, in fact, stole Ariin to use her genetic code to create the original Linyaari).
- Eragon's mother decides, after seeing how her first child is treated, that she'd rather not let Morzan know she's having another. Of course, it also isn't Morzan's, but she doesn't tell the real father she's expecting either.
- In Lynn Reid Bank's The L-Shaped Room the protagonist has absolutely no respect for the father and doesn't really want him around, so she doesn't tell him. Made easier by the fact that their paths had uncrossed by then. He finds out by happening to pass her when she's very big.
- In the other book about a young woman being a single mother in the '60s before it's fashionable (Margaret Drabble's The Millstone), the narrator also doesn't tell the father that their one night stand had results, and when she happens to see him again, lies about the age of the baby so he won't put two and two together. This is a 'not wanting to burden the father one'.
- Angie Branzino, in June Casey and Joan Triglia's Bound By Blood. She actually goes so far as to wear a corset until the sixth month (and only ditches it then because she gets found out).
- In Warrior Cats, Leafpool hides her pregnancy from everyone but Squirrelflight, who then raises the kits as her own. Justified in the sense that Leafpool was a medicine cat and could not have kits. Also, the father was from WindClan.
- Yellowfang also hides her pregnancy from the rest of her clan, but not from the father, Raggedstar. Then again, she was also a medicine cat.
- In Wicked, Elphaba goes catatonic after Fieryo's death, and didn't realize that she had given birth to Liir during the time.
- In the Jodi Picoult novel Plain Truth, the plot revolves around a deceased newborn having been found in an Amish family's barn, with no one having been aware of the pregnancy. At first, it suggests that the mother had been in the dark about her pregnancy as well, but it becomes clear later that she had worked it out and not told anyone for fear of the repercussions. And the girl's mother had figured it out as well, but not mentioned it.
- In Time Scout, Kit never suspected he had a granddaughter. Because he never knew his Sarah was pregnant. He had to ask his granddaughter whether he'd had a daughter or a son.
- Jenna has an extra reason to hide hers: she's disguised as a man with surgically implanted facial hair.
- In The Red Tent, Leah does this with her first pregnancy for a time, so as not to upset Rachel, who is celebrating her own bridal week. Later, Rachel does it herself while she is pregnant with Joseph, until she is about 3-4 months along, hoping she won't "jinx" it and have another miscarriage.
- In A Brother's Price people don't ever talk much about late-term pregnancies and try to hide early ones out of a superstitious fear of something going wrong with it. After her brother and several other family members died in an explosion at a theater, a grieving Kij Porter visited a crib and got with child but it turns out she made the story about the crib up; she had in fact been impregnanted by her brother and hid it until she had an excuse not to; because of her noble birth, it would have taken a lot to get her to go to a crib. The fear of sexually transmitted diseases, even after she'd proved clean, made it much less likely that she would be married.
- Aliena from The Pillars of the Earth hides her pregnancy until the day of birth. Not surprising since she never had sex with her husband.
Live Action TV
- Baywatch episode Baywatch Down Under. Jake learns that his ex-wife didn't tell him she had become pregnant with his child before divorcing him, because she felt he needed to be free and didn't want him to feel obliged to stay with her.
- In the Doctor Who episodes "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", the mother keeps her pregnancy secret from everyone. Of course, we only find this out years after the fact.
- A New Series 4 episode has a woman return from abroad and spend the next few months in her room, claiming severe illness. Of course, she's really pregnant. Also, this was the late 19th century, she was unmarried, and the father was a shape-shifting alien wasp, so she had some pretty good reasons to hide.
- Amy Pond does a very good job of this. Of course, she's completely unaware because the Amy we've seen all season is actually a ganger and her real body has been trapped in a white tube, super pregnant on a far away space base.
- Peggy on Mad Men, being a nice Catholic girl who had had sex just that one time when she got pregnant, didn't even find out for herself until going into labor; even after the baby's been put up for adoption, she doesn't mention it to anyone, even the father, until the last episode of Season 2, when everyone is panicking during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Completely justified, considering that it is the very early 60s.
- The Discovery Health Channel show I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant plays this straight as in every episode the woman does not know that she is pregnant until just before she gives birth.
- Scully hides her pregnancy from everyone except A.D. Skinner for several months on The X-Files. The reason for hiding it is never really given, though there are a few theories It wasn't until close to the birth and after William is born that we find out he's an alien/human hybrid, of sorts, and every bad guy wants him thanks to a prophecy. A more benign reason is that she wanted to keep on the hunt for Mulder without issue, didn't think anyone else needed to know (including her new partner), or the fact that the men in her life kind of become twitchy, overprotective bodyguards when they find out she's pregnant.
- A tragic version on Earth: Final Conflict. Sibohan Beckett and Ron Sandoval were raped by Ha'Gel. Sibohan is captured by the Resistance and gives birth to Liam in captivity. The Resistance decide to mindwipe her to prevent her from revealing their hideout to the Taelons, with the caveat that if she remembered Liam was her son, it would cause the alien implant in her head to overload and kill her. She eventually does, and the only comsolation is that Liam's by her side (and Sandoval's watching from the shadows) as she dies.
- Due to some genetic Applied Phlebotinum, Peacekeepers can keep a pregnancy in status for up to 7 cycles (years.) As a result, it isn't difficult for Aeryn to hide her pregnancy from John...until Noranti spills the beans, anyway.
- In Quick Change, the female bank robber keeps her pregnancy secret from her boyfriend, the ringleader, firstly because she doesn't want anything to distract him from the heist they're pulling off and wants to wait until they're away and free to spring the good news, then because she doesn't like what he seems to be turning into following the heist. Unfortunately, she confides in the less-than-bright third robber, who accidentally spills the beans.
- In Glee, Quinn tries to hide her pregnancy from everyone but Finn and Puck, since she knows she'll likely lose every bit of her social status when people find out, not to mention her strict Baptist parents' reaction. It doesn't stay hidden for very long, though.
- Stargate Atlantis has Teyla hiding her pregnancy from her superiors for a while because she doesn't want to be taken off the duty roster. When Sheppard starts to get suspicious due to her immediately visiting the infirmary after getting hit by a Wraith stunner, she confesses that she's in the second trimester and was worried the stunner could harm the child. He instantly chews her ass off for risking her life and that of her child's like this before putting her on maternity leave.
- K'Ehleyr from Star Trek: The Next Generation doesn't tell her son Alexander's father about him until he is three years old, and probably would've waited longer if she hadn't been sent back to the Enterprise. Worf is understandably pissed.
- In Farscape, Aeryn hides her pregnancy from her shipmates, though Noranti finds out somehow and tells Crichton. It then becomes a matter of various people finding out about the pregnancy despite Aeryn's attempts to keep it secret. Unlike most examples, she is able to hide the physical signs of pregnancy for an extended period of time, thanks to Bizarre Alien Biology.
- Tina from The L Word hides her second pregnancy from everyone, especially her then-ex Bette, for fear of Bette's reaction if she has another miscarriage.
- Homer was in the dark during most of the time Marge was pregnant with Maggie, in part because she knew Homer planned to just stay with two kids and keep his dream job at the bowling alley and didn't want to upset him. Her sisters, wanting to see Homer suffer, spread the news around town. However, Homer was far too thick to see the signs, understand the congratulatory euphemisms, or notice the outright statements of his soon-to-be fatherhood, and in fact only fully understood after someone congratulated him on his new job due to Rule of Funny.
- During the reign of Louis XV of France, a young woman who gave birth to his stillborn child was charged with infanticide because she had hidden the pregnancy. Remember that as this was a classical European monarchy, and France, she was unlikely to have been stigmatized for this. The King's mistress, Madame du Barry, pleaded with the King to spare the girl's life; her request solidified his love for her because it was the first time she had ever asked him for anything, and it was for someone else. Later on she asked him for quite a bit for herself, to put it mildly.
- Sex columnist Dan Savage notes in his book The Commitment how his parents got married after a brief engagement and in a borrowed wedding dress because they were expecting, and didn't want their Catholic families to know they conceived a child out of wedlock.
- In older times, this was often inverted by adoptive mothers who would fake being pregnant because they didn't want their families and friends to ask too many questions.
- In the late 1990's a woman made the Seattle news after she went to the hospital with terrible stomach pains and delivered a healthy 6-pound baby girl. As her periods had always been light and irregular, and she continued to spot throughout the pregnancy and had no baby bump at all, she had no idea she was pregnant until she gave birth.
- Nobody outside Sarah Palin's immediate family knew she was pregnant with Trig, her fifth child, until she was seven months in. For a forty-something, mother-of-four governor that's not unimpressive. Unfortunately for her this just gave ammunition to her political opponents who accused her of faking the pregnancy to cover up premarital hanky-panky by her teenage daughter.
- There is a new TLC show called Secretly Pregnant which deals with women that hide their pregnancy for whatever reason. For example, one woman hid her pregnancy because she was 40 years old and pregnant by a 19 year old.
- And who can forget the baby delivered in a prom bathroom and promptly thrown out that no one knew about?
- There are at least two stories about foreign au pair servants in London circa the 1980s who turned out to have been hurriedly sent onto new employers, who were found to be heavily pregnant (one who went into labour within 24 hours of being hired.) They tended to speak little English, had no home but their jobs and were usually afraid of being sent home if they spoke up (and employers decided the easiest way was to foist them onto other households). Another girl held in her 'bump' with a wide leather belt until her employer worked it out a few weeks before the birth (she'd gone to England hoping to keep her pregnancy secret from her family and have the baby adopted- eventually she couldn't give up the baby and her employer helped her reconcile with her mother.)