Does your man experience morning sickness — is he growing man boobs, a belly and craving pickles? But wait a minute, you’re the pregnant one.
If you answered yes to all these questions, then it is very likely that your man may just be experiencing Couvade syndrome – also known as sympathetic pregnancy.
This rare condition involves an expectant father experiencing physical symptoms similar to those found in pregnancy, including birth pains at or near the time of birth. Your partner may also experience a loss of interest in sex and even pre- and postnatal depression.
Couvade, which is a French word, meaning to “hatch”, usually begins at the end of the first trimester and increases in severity until the third trimester. According to medical experts, the only known cure is birth. While this is not a medically recognised condition, several expectant fathers suffer through this, while their partners are pregnant.
In fact, about 90 percent of men experience at least one pregnancy-like symptom, according to a 2005 report filed by CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, M.D.
Severe cases of Couvade have been documented, among them a father who experienced abdominal pains when his wife went into labour.
What causes it?
Some people are not convinced that these are in fact pregnancy symptoms experienced by fathers. These doubters attribute the weight gain to the eating habits of the expectant mom, and the morning sickness to nerves.
Other reasons behind Couvade include:
- A way of showing sympathy or empathy for his partner
- Dad undergoing an actual hormonal shift
- Dad’s simulated pregnancy asserts his paternity
Some men are also more susceptible to Couvade than others. According to researchers, if you and your partner have experienced infertility, or if you were adopted, you could be more likely to experience Couvade syndrome.
Researchers also say that it is very possible that the symptoms experienced by expectant fathers could be in the mind – but they can still manifest in a physical form.
Fathers to be can experience pregnancy symptoms such as:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight gain
In severe cases
- Grow a belly
- Breast enlargement
- Stomach spasms during their partners labour
Breast enlargement according to researchers is caused by psychological triggers which cause shifts in the hormone levels of prolactin, cortisol, estradiol and testosterone. These symptoms can get worse towards the end of pregnancy and may even last a few weeks after baby is born.
What can dad do?
Dad should contact his doctor so that he can rule out any serious conditions – that are unrelated to Couvade. Also treat the symptoms, for example the constipation or the heartburn. And just like mom, put up your feet, and just relax.