Can You Become Addicted to Pregnancy?

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When British resident and surrogate Tara Sawyer joked with the Daily Mail last week about being addicted to pregnancy, saying that she wouldn't stop having babies until "[her] womb fell out" (she's delivered seven so far, four of whom are hers and three of whom have been for other couples), she may have been laughing, but experts aren't.

Pregnancy addiction is a real condition, California-based psychiatrist Carole Lieberman told Shape.com in an email. "Women who are obsessed with being pregnant are literally filling the hole inside them, just as alcoholics and drug addicts use substances to fill a psychological void." [Tweet this fact!]

Sawyer herself has said that surrogacy is addictive. She loves it so much, she does it for free, not even charging the 15,000 pounds ($25,000 U.S. dollars) she's entitled to by law for each pregnancy. "It's a huge rush from the first moment the test comes back positive," she told the Daily Mail. "I'm addicted to the buzz of pregnancy, and if I can help childless couples at the same time, it would be insane not to."

What drives a constant need to be pregnant? There are a few possible factors. For one, researchers recently found that baby fever actually exists (surprisingly in both men and women). Couple that with a 24-hour news cycle that constantly highlights celebrity "baby bumps" and large families (think the Duggars' 19 and Counting, or Jon & Kate Plus 8), and constant pregnancies seems normal and manageable, Bethany Marshall, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist told Yahoo! Shine recently.

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While Sawyer seems open and happy about her experiences, pregnancy addiction—as with any other addiction—can cause real damage, from physical to emotional. In fact, Lieberman (who does not work with or treat Sawyer) says that Sawyer's case can illustrate some common reasons why women become addicted to pregnancy: "Pregnant women inspire attention and warmth from those who see her," she says. "Sometimes women who are insecure about their ability to accomplish other things that might bring them attention or warmth try to get pregnant instead."

Sawyer echoes that sentiment, saying that when she's not pregnant, she feels deprived. "When I'm not pregnant, I feel empty, and only a baby can fill that void," she said.

Women often talk about the "glow" of pregnancy, and it's true that many women feel at their healthiest or best while pregnant (and there's nothing wrong with that!), but it's when you're purposely avoiding any underlying issues, then it veers into addiction territory, Lieberman says. If you find yourself having a hard time deciding whether you want more children or simply miss being pregnant, Marshall recommends asking yourself whether the urge to get pregnant trumps the "reality of raising a child." 

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