Denial of Pregnancy Suspected in Death of French Infants

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In a small English village near Lille, Villers-au-Tertre, the bones of two infants were discovered when the current owners had the yard excavated for a family swimming pool. The gruesome discovery led to a quiet and unassuming nursing assistant who had previously lived in the home with her parents. Dominique Cottrez eventually admitted that she killed eight of her ten infants by suffocation.

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Investigators released her husband, Pierre-Marie Cottrez, from jail, after his wife absolved him from the crimes. She admitted that her heavy frame hid the pregnancies from her family and friends, and she acted alone in the murders.

Similar cases of infanticide have recently taken place in France, and experts believe that it is a refusal to believe they are pregnant, that prompts the women to kill their children after they are born. The condition, termed "denial of pregnancy," involves women who either are unaware that they are pregnant, refuse to believe they are pregnant or choose to conceal the pregnancy. Studies have shown that the condition often affects women who are in psychological conflict, and a German study estimates that one denied pregnancy occurs in every 300-600 pregnancies.

Cottrez denies having the condition, and stated that due to her weight, she had a difficult time with the delivery of her first child, and did not want any more children. She admitted that she was also uncomfortable seeking medical help with birth control. The couple has two grown daughters.

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