Not first phantom pregnancy for Quebec woman, family says 0
Barbara Bienvenue and Paul Servat. (Via Facebook)
MONTREAL — Barbara Bienvenue, the Quebec woman who pretended to be pregnant with quintuplets, has done the same thing before, relatives and an ex-boyfriend tell QMI Agency.
Bienvenue, 37, is now in a psychiatric ward, but friends and family allege she previously posed as cancer patient and an expectant mother of twins.
Relatives told QMI they weren't surprised to hear that her Wednesday due date came and went with no babies.
"This isn't the first time she's done it," said a male relative who didn't want to be named for fear of reprisal. "But honestly, we never would have thought she was sick enough to do it again."
QMI spoke this week with Bienvenue's tearful boyfriend Paul Servat in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., south of Montreal.
Servat said he was led to believe for 34 weeks that Bienvenue was expecting quintuplets. He went to hospital with Bienvenue where a nurse said the woman was never pregnant.
Her relative told QMI that Bienvenue never told the family she was pregnant and "didn't seem pregnant at all."
"She cut ties with us in recent months," said the relative. "She didn't want us to know about her game."
The family told QMI that Bienvenue once pretended she had leukemia and has often claimed to suffer afflictions, including heart problems.
A previous boyfriend, who also did not want to be named for fear of reprisal, said Bienvenue once told him that she had twins, and he alleges she took extreme measures to raise money for the nonexistent children.
Bienvenue and Servat broke the news to a friend last summer that she was having quintuplets.
The friend was thrilled and launched a Facebook page.
Clothes, food and other baby items poured into Bienvenue's home, but the friend now says she feels used.
"I wanted to do the right thing," she said.
"I used my personal and professional contacts to get her sponsorships. Others gave her all sorts of clothes or furniture."
When the charade was exposed, the father called her in tears.
"He was crying on the phone. He was devastated, he didn't understand."
The friend has since posted news about the phantom pregnancy on Facebook and is trying to return all of the donated goods.
Sgt. Luc Tougas, a local police spokesman, said Friday that no one has filed a criminal complaint so far.
"There would have to be a monetary loss but we have heard that the boyfriend is reimbursing people," said Tougas.
"If the man gives back the furniture ... and the woman seems to have mental issues, then we would expect that the people (who donated) would let this go."
Bienvenue's family says they're happy she's receiving psychiatric care.
"Doctors need to take care of her or else she'll do it again and again," said her male relative.
As for the grieving boyfriend, the family member said: "He doesn't deserve to live with this."
- With files from Brian Daly
EXPLAINED: Phantom pregnancies
Phantom pregnancy is a rare phenomenon observed in women seeking personal affirmation, says psychiatrist Suzie L. Levesque.
"The lady seems to be seeking benefits, but unconsciously," Levesque said. "She's drawing attention to herself."
Levesque also brought up the possibility of Munchausen syndrome, in which people pretend to be sick.
There is no medication to treat women who suffer from phantom pregnancy, known as pseudocyesis. Mental-health professionals usually recommend therapy.
Bienvenue's boyfriend says Bienvenue's belly swelled, she began lactating and even broke water.
Gynecologist Isabelle Girard tells QMI that there are alternate explanations for those symptoms.
"A woman could push her ""belly outwards, stop going to the toilet or just eat more," says Girard.
The gynecologist is more skeptical about claims that Bienvenue was lactating.
"That could result from intense nipple stimulation," she explained.
As for the claim that Bienvenue broke water, the gynecologist suggests urinary incontinence.
- Claudia Berthiaume, QMI Agency