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Original Research

Pseudolabor: A New Conversion Disorder Subtype? A Case Presentation and Literature Review

David Lyman, MD, MPH

Published: April 1, 2004

Article Abstract

Pseudolabor is not a recognized conversion disorder subtype. The diagnosis of conversion disorder is suspected when a patient presents with symptoms under voluntary control that mimic a neurologic or medical condition. The term pseudolabor was first used in 1994 to describe a patient who presented at 27 weeks’ gestation with monitored contraction activity and no palpable uterine contractions. A second case is presented herein. Both patients were initially managed as though they had preterm labor or uterine irritability with minimal cervical changes. The diagnosis was suspected only after each patient failed to respond to aggressive tocolysis. On external tocodynamometry, contractions were abrupt in onset and abrupt in descent. Only after palpating abdominal contractions and not uterine contractions did the attending physicians makethe correct diagnosis. The development of pseudolabor in a patient with previously diagnosed pseudoseizures suggests that the condition was conversion disorder. The prevalence of pseudolabor is unknown and may be underestimated: electronic fetal monitoring has minimized the need to palpate uterine contractions in the laboring patient. The diagnosis of pseudolabor as a subtype of conversion disorder should be considered in any patient who presents with recurrent preterm uterine contractions, no (or minimal) cervical changes, and an atypical contraction pattern.

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