Couvade Syndrome Can Actually Make Your Man Feel Pregnant

You’ve got morning sickness, a sore back, and you just want to eat all the pickles… You call your husband for a nice back massage and a quick grocery run– but wait, what’s this? He’s sprawled on the bed complaining of morning sickness, a sore back, and pickle cravings too? What the heck is going on?

Couvade Syndrome, also called sympathetic pregnancy, was first coined over 150 years ago by Edward Burnett Taylor, an English anthropologist. It’s said to have derived from the French verb couver meaning “to incubate.” It’s a psychological condition observed in some pregnant women’s partners. It’s when the partner experiences some – or all – of the pregnancy symptoms of soon-to-be-moms.

Blame it on the Pheromones…

Studies have shown that men who live with their pregnant partner can experience lower testosterone levels by as much as 30% until six months after the baby is born. The temporary drop in testosterone could prompt Couvade Syndrome in one- to two-thirds of men. Researchers don’t fully understand why this occurs, but living with the pregnant partner probably plays a significant role. The pregnant woman could give off a specific type of pheromone and that may decrease the testosterone.

Some researchers say this phenomenon goes back to the cave man days. Lower testosterone levels means the male stays closer to home, where he can supply the pregnant female with more food and lessening his desire to go out to find a new female. Instead, he stands by his woman and helps prepare for his offspring to ensure his DNA will be passed on to the next generation.

…Or Blame it on the Hormones

Another factor contributing to Couvade Syndrome are the man’s hormones that change during the months of pregnancy. Cortisol, testosterone, prolactin, and estradiol are thought to be released to prepare the man for fatherhood. Many pregnancy symptoms women encounter are due to hormonal changes, so it stands to reason this could happen to men as well. Finally, some researchers have chalked it up to psychological motivations like stress, guilt, or empathy.

Is it All in his Head?

Most health care professionals would agree that Couvade Syndrome is more of a psychosomatic condition than a medical one. Most of the “sympathy” symptoms include the usual – morning sickness, strange food cravings, sleep problems, backaches, constipation, and weight gain. In a paper published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, it was noted that these various symptoms have been described in the partners of pregnant women with an incidence ranging from 11% to 65%.

The most common of these symptoms were appetite variations, nausea, insomnia, and weight gain. There are reports of men gaining up to 30 pounds. In more extreme cases, labor pains, breast changes, and postnatal depression have been reported. The men experienced these symptoms mostly in the first and third trimesters, when they are also typically the worst in pregnant women. Notably, a higher rate of sympathetic pregnancy occurs more in couples who have experienced infertility or pregnancy loss.

We’re in This Together

Couvade Syndrome doesn’t have any standardized treatment. Expectant fathers suffering from Couvade Syndrome are experiencing the common symptoms in pregnant moms. So if your partner is feeling nauseous in the morning, have a package of crackers on each nightstand and you can both get out of bed slowly. If you’re experiencing back pain, then give each other a massage or take a pregnancy yoga class together. Crazy cravings? That could be fun. Who has the nastiest combo? Weight gain, on the other hand, is expected and encouraged for mom. However, dad may have to pull in the reins and get some self-control to avoid a seven-month-old pregger belly!

Some peer pressure from a buddy may pull him out of it. Often, the symptoms are alleviated if he feels he has an active and important role in the pregnancy. Let’s face it, a pregnant woman may feel validated when her partner is experiencing the same symptoms, but is it really beneficial to have two people with moods swings and nausea living in the same house? Plus, you’ll have to flip a coin to decide who has to drive to the convenience store for pickles and cheese in a can.

Is your partner currently experiencing sympathetic pregnancy? How are you both dealing with it?

Tags : pregnancy   health   fatherhood   

Nilou Farnetti
Ha ha! This is too funny. My husband went through the same thing!