Couvade Syndrome: When Expectant Fathers Get Pregnancy Symptoms

Couvade syndrome is a condition in which an expectant father experiences some of the same symptoms and behavior similar to their pregnant wife.

Shalini Nair, Executive Physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru

Couvade syndrome is a condition in which an expectant father experiences some of the same symptoms and behavior similar to their pregnant wife. It is also known as sympathetic pregnancy or Phantom pregnancy.

Some medical professionals believe it is a psychosomatic condition while others believe it to be because of hormonal changes.

The most common symptoms that expectant fathers tend to experience includes

  • Weight gain
  • Back pain
  • Indigestion
  • Changes in appetite
  • Toothache
  • Altered hormone level
  • Morning sickness
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Disturbed sleep
  • In more extreme cases, symptoms can include labor pains (commonly known as sympathy pain), fatigue, nosebleeds and postpartum depression.

There are lots of psychological and physiological studies associated with this syndrome. A critical review by journal of reproductive and infant psychology in 2007, suggested that it is a consequence of the man’s envy of the woman’s procreative ability or fetal rivalry. Various Psychosocial theories propose that it occurs due to the marginalization of fatherhood and as part of a transitional crisis to parenthood. However it is also mentioned that these theories are not well investigated. Another study in the same year revealed that physical symptoms are more common than the psychological ones.

The likely causative factors for couvade syndrome may be stress and empathy. According to some obstetrician and gynaecologists, stress releases chemicals in the body that can manifest as sympathetic pregnancy.

Fortunately couvade syndrome is almost always temporary. More research is required to completely understand the causes, symptoms and relieving factors associated with this syndrome.

However to conclude, an evidence based child birth education classes by maternity healthcare provider can  help the  expectant men to be informed and prepared about their new role and responsibilities and have a positive childbirth experience along with their partner.

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