I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant/Temple’s Law

        I didn’t know I was pregnant.  No, not me.  That would be a tad too fictional, huh?  However, it is possible for a woman to become pregnant and get all the way to term and not realize she is with child.  (In the end it will make itself known, though.)

        A gentleman from Mike Mathis Productions of Pasadena, California read my blog, and contacted me to consult on a series they had in the works with the Discovery Heath Channel called, “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant.”  As a Doc I have seen this phenonenon before, and it brought back a number of memories.

        My first knowledge of the concept came from my Community Medicine mentor and all around bluegrass doctor hero, Dr. Peter Temple, back when I was in med school at Sandhills.  Peter had a series of laws the student had to memorize to get an “A” in his rotation.  (You could only make an “A+” if you could also pick bluegrass music on his front porch on Wednesday night.  Guess who his A+ student was?”)

        Anyway, his most important law was Temple’s Law Number ONE.  It was: “A woman is pregnant till proved otherwise.”  This is a very important doctor rule, perhaps the single most important one I learned in medical school.  Armed with Temple’s Law, in all these years I have never x-rayed a pregnant woman.  In fact, as a third year med student I was the hero of daily rounds (a rare occurrence I assure you) when I canceled an IVP ( a kidney x-ray with a fair amount of radiation) ordered on a patient whose missed period was overlooked by a Doc who should have known better.  Temple’s Law.  As we say in bluegrass, it is a good’un.  (As is Temple.)

        I residency, the first patient I saw who was unaware of her condition had made it to the eighth month.  I’ll never forget her chief complaint. (doctor talk for what is wrong)  “Doctor, I don’t know what’s happened, but my belly be swolle and my gym shorts don’t fit like they used to.”  I delivered her baby and a second one, too.  (She was aware of number two right from the missed period.)

        After I got out in practice some of the older Docs told me about house calls they’d made to check on someone with abdominal pain only to become involved in an emergency home delivery.  And I had a few patients who had been told they could not get pregnant and were certain their nausea and vomiting were due to terminal cancer.  (Talk about a reversal of fortune in fifteen minutes!)

        Mathis Productions hoped I might have some recent patients who would like to tell their story on national T.V., and I had to tell him I did not at this time.  My patients have grown older with me, and mine is more of a geriatric practice these days.  However, they sent me Episode 101 on DVD, and I found it both accurate medicine, and fast paced entertainment.  I told them I would post on the blog for them and scout around with my colleagues.  Some of my GYN friends will be on the look-out, and I had to send a copy to my old pal Dr. Temple.  He’s seen it all twice.

        If y’all know of anyone who got to term and got surprised with a baby, contact Mike Mathis Productions at the e-mail below.  They’d love to hear your story.  I hope it has a happy ending- those are my favorites.

Contact e-mail:  jmaas@mikemathisprods.com

Dr. B

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16 Comments on “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant/Temple’s Law”

  1. Cindy Carter Says:

    Don’t know anyone who did not know they were pregnant. Met a few who believed their baby would not come until the exact due date given them by their doctor. I know someone who did not know she was having twins until she was in labor. That was a surprise too! And, of course, my moma thought she could only have boys. So imagine her surprise when I showed up!

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Cindy,

    We have one of each. They have been healthy the whole way, and that has been a blessing. I grew up in a family of all boys. I love my son- we have a great time and he is one heck of a golfer, but I’m glad I had a daughter too. Just like in a good bluegrass band the music is sweeter with a female voice in the mix.

    Dr. B

  3. pandemonic Says:

    Having been pregnant twice, I can tell you that there is no way in H*** that I wouldn’t have known. Both my children were active. My son liked to kick me in the ribs. You could see the outline of his enormous feet (he still has ’em) on my skin. My daughter, true to her later form as cheerleader and gymnast, would bounce up and down. She did somersaults during an ultrasound, which was annoying to the technician who couldn’t get a good read.

    The stomach feelings are NOT like indigestion, heart pain or anything else. It’s a sensation like no other. The back pain, the constant urination (sorry if that’s distasteful, but you’re a doctor), plus sleeplessness, nesting instinct, how can you overlook that? Maybe if the woman was overweight to begin with, but it’s still hard to imagine.

    I tend to disbelieve women who say they didn’t know. HOW could they not have known?

  4. drtombibey Says:


    I have always said God knew what God was doing. If it was up to men to have babies, the human race woulda died out a long time ago.

    How they don’t know they are pregnant is a mystery to me, but then so are many things feminine. I guess maybe denial can be a powerful force in the human mind at times.

    The show will likely be an eye-opener.

    Dr. B

  5. pandemonic Says:

    Darn it, Dr. B. I thought you knew everything about human anatomy! You mean you haven’t figured out women yet? 🙂

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    I got them babies figured out O.K. It was all the little subtle verbal nuances that were confounding at times. My wife knew what I was gonna say before I said it, and it’d take me a while to process her thoughts.

    Dr. B

  7. newt221 Says:

    Dr. B and friends. I know some of you may think this is sill. But, my Ranger Dog had a run in with the bumper and front tire of my husbands truck. He has a really badly wounded front right leg. No broken bones but his skin is like hamburger. He is not in danger of losing the leg but he may have to have skin grafts to heal the wound. So, if any of you are so inclined, say a little prayer for the pup. Also, if you all know some remedies that might save his skin (no pun intended) let me know.

    Thanks in advance

  8. drtombibey Says:

    ms. Cindy,

    Not silly at. We have one that is part of the family, and I think my daughter would not make it without hers. Ranger’s on the prayer list.

    Dr. B

  9. KJ Says:

    Hey, Doc,

    This phenomenon has always been (and probably always will be) one I just can’t get my head around. How can a woman not know? I suppose, on a case-by-case basis, unless we’ve walked in their shoes we may never know. But I do wonder if it has to do primarily with denial.

    My daughter got pregnant when she was 17, and while she hid this from us (yes, she was in denial) until I called her out on the bump that nobody could miss with a red Hollywood Video cummerbund wrapped around it. She had kept saying she was just gaining weight. So when I finally said, you’re too skinny to have that weight in your belly and pulled the covers off of her one morning, she fessed up through tears.

    All this to say, I had less than two months to get used to the idea (she delivered early), and I think it’s safe to say, she only had that much time too.

    http://interminablewriter.wordpress.com, http://nanadiaries.wordpress.com

  10. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. KJ,

    Well again I must say I have all respect for women. For my money, my wife and daughter and mom are the 8th wonders of the world. As far as being pregnant, I’m glad it wasn’t up to me. I’d probably complained it was wrecking my golf game!

    All men usually do about having babies is participate in the creation process, take the woman to the hospital, read Field and Stream magazine in the waiting room, pass out cigars, and brag. (And that is the good ones!)

    Thanks for the visit, and keep up your blog. I think you write for all the right reasons.

    Dr. B

  11. katkmeanders Says:

    I gave the new lady doctor I am seeing (the lady doctor I had went on to greener pastures/a better position) pause not that long ago. She seemed certain I was showing signs of being pregnant. (And obviously hadn’t read over my patient chart…) Until, I informed her I couldn’t be pregnant because I didn’t have a utereus anymore due to a partial hysterectomy to remove a large fibroid tumor in the uterine muscle wall.

  12. drtombibey Says:

    Yep Ms. Kat that would be a tough feat. There have been a few cases in history of abdominal pregancies, but I have never seen one, and I’m not sure of the physiological mechanism of those.

    Dr. B

  13. Spike Says:

    Temple’s Law, what a succinct yet humorous approach to practice. I love it. It’s great when learned advice like that can be shared.

    Found you through “Hear Me in the Harmony” and you seem like an interesting chap.

    I’ll follow along for a bit Doc…

  14. drtombibey Says:


    Thanks for the visit.

    Moonlighting student- that’s me also after a lifetime in medicine.

    When I take a standardized test (I call ’em a bubble test) I’m like a Pavlovian dog- I start to salivate and sweat like a race horse ready to bust out of the gate.

    The words, “You may take your number two pencil and break the seal of your test booklet” are about like “Gentlemen start your enginies” for me. (Although nowadays we take the tests on computer.)

    Dr. B

  15. cheskapepper Says:

    A friend of mine didn’t know that she was pregnant until she was on her 6th month. I think it’s because she didn’t experience any symptoms of pregnancy like morning sickness and fatigue. Yes, her belly was growing but not really that much. She thought she was just getting fat.

    • drtombibey Says:


      It happens a lot. A lot of guys think it would be impossible not to realize you are pregnant, but I think we don’t know too much about it. God knew what God was doing, ’cause if it was up to men to have babies, we’d a died out a long time ago.

      Appreciate you dropping by, and I hope you’ll come back to visit again.

      Dr. B

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