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Barbara convinced an entire town that she was pregnant with quintuplets.

When Paul Servat met Barbara Bienvenue through an online dating site, he thought it was love.

So when she announced she was pregnant one month into their relationship, he was thrilled.

The couple happily told family and friends the wonderful news – they were expecting twins.

However, several weeks later Barbara told Paul that it was actually triplets, then she said it was quadruplets.

And strangely then the story changed to quintuplets after she announced that on her last ultrasound they found one more baby.

They set up a Facebook page so friends and family could donate clothing and baby goods.

The whole town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec was excited for them, with front-page articles appearing in the local paper and the community rallying around the unusual pregnancy.

Photos of the donations which poured in appeared on their Facebook page. A range of beautiful baby beanies and home-made knitted blankets. Their nursery set up at home with five bassinets was ready and waiting for the new babies to come home.

But when Barbara was at 34 weeks, things took a turn you could never have imagined.

Paul took Barbara to hospital, expecting his partner to give birth. That’s when he was taken aside by a nurse.

It was a hoax he was told. His partner was not – and had never been – pregnant.

The whole town was involved.

The Daily Mail reports that a post on the ‘Les Quadruplets de St-Jean’ Facebook page speaks of Paul’s devastation.

“This morning, Paul arrived at the hospital believing that he would finally see his four babies and instead there was a team of doctors who waited and did a blood test and told the news to Paul. He is completely torn, he not only lost someone he had fallen in love with but 4 babies who were his reason to live.”

A local woman Geneviève Laflamme, herself a mother of triplets, became friends with Barbara in order to help her navigate the terrifying prospect of life with multiples.

But she began to see through Barbara’s claim to be pregnant.

Laflamme says a week before Barbara’s purported due date, Barbara told her she had undergone another ultrasound that revealed there were actually five babies inside her.

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Something didn’t add up.

According to the Toronto Sun, Barbara Bienvenue was taken into psychiatric care last Tuesday, with claims that it was in fact a phantom pregnancy.

The phenomenon of a phantom pregnancy, or pseudocyesis, is rare – but it does happen.

Dr. Haim Abenhaim, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, told CTV News that there are two types of phantom pregnancies documented in medical literature.

One type of pseudocyesis occurs when there are physical pregnancy signs, such as missed periods, morning sickness and extension of the abdomen, but no actual pregnancy. The other condition is called delusional pregnancy in which a patient truly believes she is pregnant but is not.

The story has made headlines across Canada, and disturbingly friends and ex-boyfriends of Barbara have come forward saying that she has done this before.

“This isn’t the first time she’s done it,” a male relative told QMI. “But honestly, we never would have thought she was sick enough to do it again.”

According to the Toronto Sun, she had previously faked cancers and tricked her ex-partners into believing she was pregnant.

They had everything ready.

The newspaper reports, “Bienvenue once pretended she had leukemia and had 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 non-existent children”.

For Paul Servat, the whole situation is devastating. He has pledged to return every item donated through the Facebook page and has apologised to the town that took him under their wing.

He is mourning the loss of his babies and the woman he thought he knew and loved.

Meanwhile, Barbara Bienvenue is undergoing psychiatric treatment.