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couvade syndrome sympathy pregnancy

If you gathered a group of fathers and asked them if they ever thought they had Couvade Syndrome, you would probably get lots of shrugging shoulders and blank stares.

However if you start asking these dads if they ever noticed any unusual weight gain during their partner’s pregnancy or if they ever found themselves getting queasy during the day, you might be surprised to get a lot of nods and shy smiles.

While it may seem embarrassing to feel pregnant, when obviously you are not and never will be, new research has found an explanation for the pregnancy symptoms. (And it is not due to helping out with the “eating for two”.) 🙂 The explanation has been named “couvade syndrome” or – maybe a nicer name – “sympathy pregnancy”. Syndrome sounds pretty bad, I think, but it really is just a name for symptoms experienced by men during their partner’s pregnancy.

This post is written by a dad guest blogger, Chris, who himself, experienced a bit of sympathy pregnancy with his first baby.

Couvade Syndrome 101

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So what is this sympathy pregnancy?

Couvade Syndrome is a psychosomatic condition experienced by the male partner of a pregnant woman. Although this condition is psychosomatic, the symptoms associated with this seem very real. Symptoms usually appear during the third month of pregnancy and can become severe by the third trimester. Symptoms are the same as those suffered by pregnant women:

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  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps
  • Strange food cravings
  • Changes in sexual appetite
  • Unusual appearance of a severe toothache

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Is there a cure?

Symptoms are only alleviated by one thing: the birth of the child. Sorry guys.

How prevalent is Couvade Syndrome?

There are two schools of thought here. Many researchers deny its existence completely. They attribute the appearance of symptoms to a father’s nerves, eating habits, or simply changes that a pregnancy triggers in one’s life.

Other experts claim that the condition is on the rise, especially in western industrialized nations. Researchers believe this rise is due to expanding and more active roles fathers are playing in both childbirth and childcare. Still more studies are even showing greater incidence of Couvade Syndrome in men when they are part of a couple experiencing infertility issues or if the father was adopted as a child.

What can Dads do if they experience symptoms of sympathy pregnancy?

While scientists argue the existence of sympathy pregnancy, the manifestation of symptoms and the physical discomfort caused appear quite real to men. Some things that Dads can do to help include:

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  • Becoming more involved in their partner’s pregnancy
  • Cope with any anxiety regarding the baby
  • Face the fears associated with impending fatherhood
  • Establish a deeper bond with their partner
  • Share their feelings with their partner
  • Discuss symptoms with a doctor

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If nothing seems to alleviate the symptoms, Dads can be assured they will go away, but only after the birth of the baby.

In the meantime, interpret the signs as something positive – you are obviously very engaged in your partner’s pregnancy! Prepare by reading up – a good book is for example The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be. Attending a prenatal class together is an even better preparation.

My take on this syndrome

Although more familiar with the term, sympathetic pregnancy, I have no doubts about the existence of Couvade Syndrome. I can’t say for sure if I suffered from the full brunt of the syndrome, but I can’t ignore the weight gain of almost thirty pounds nor can I deny the strange food cravings I had during the pregnancy (And yes, I am a DAD writing this.) I do recall several bouts of nausea at times as well but it’s hard to say if that was entirely due to the syndrome or to something else.

Like many dads, I was excited at the prospects of being a father and I was very anxious for the pregnancy to be over with and to meet my little girl. I think doctors’ more common view is plausible too; that my weight gain and cravings could be attributed to nerves and anxiety as well and not Couvade Syndrome.

With all of the possibilities and unknowns about Couvade Syndrome, it would be fascinating to see some more in-depth studies about its causes. In the meantime, if you’re an expecting father with unusual cravings or cramping legs, stock up on those foods and get a nice massage and ride it out. The reward at your journey’s end is definitely worth it.

Video clip about Couvade Syndrome

Here you can watch a video discussing sympathy pregnancy.

Now over to you – have you (or your hubby) experienced couvade syndrome? In what way? Or do you think this is just a fantasy? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

This Post Has 10 Comments

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    This was an incredibly interesting read. I have heard of this syndrome before, but I have never read all of the details until now.

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    Very interesting! I do agree that dads now play a far more active role and I know my husband was fascinated so perhaps there is some truth to it!

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    My sister’s Father in law suffered from this with each of his wife’s 9 pregnancies.

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    While this didn’t actually happen to my husband, he jokes that it did. We have 2 children 18 months apart, and within the time I got pregnant with my first and had my second my husband gained 30 lbs. Oops!

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    This is really interesting! I’ve never heard of Couvade Syndrome. I wish it could mean that when men experience these symptoms, pregnant women have them less. 😉

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    My husband definitely gained weight during my first pregnancy. I dunno if it’s the syndrome though

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