Have you noticed a change in your partner after discovering that you were pregnant? He may be experiencing sympathy pregnancy.

What is couvade syndrome?

Couvade syndrome is a condition in which the partners of pregnant women (males) often experience the same or similar pregnancy symptoms, also called sympathy pregnancy or pregnant dad syndrome.  However, this syndrome has not been classified as a medical or mental issue.

Symptoms can include:

  • Changes in appetite, weight gain or weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, diarrhea
  • Cramping or back pains
  • Anxiety or depression

Symptoms of this condition usually begin to appear during the first trimester or the third month of pregnancy.

What causes couvade syndrome?

Though there are several theories about the development of couvade syndrome, experts are still unsure why it occurs in some men and not others. These theories include:

  • Changes in hormone levels – As the syndrome develops, the hormones prolactin and estrogen increase during the first and third trimester of pregnancy as testosterone and stress hormone cortisol levels lower.
  • Feelings of attachment – Fathers that are more hands on as they learn about their unborn child are more susceptible to the syndrome.
  • Physiological causes – It is believed that men who are more empathetic (compassionate) develop the syndrome more often than those who are not. In other words, men who empathize with their partner’s symptoms or pains during pregnancy are more vulnerable to couvade syndrome.

Is this a common occurrence among men?

While most men do not openly discuss these symptoms, it is very common. “Men all over the world experience Couvade syndrome. Studies have found varying rates in different parts of the world, but the most recent statistics suggest Couvade syndrome occurs in about 25% to 52% of men in the United States who have pregnant partners.”[1]

Can couvade syndrome be treated?

Because couvade syndrome is temporary, there are no recommended treatments. However, there are several strategic approaches to ease the symptoms. For some men meditation can be soothing as well as yoga. Therapy can be beneficial for men experiencing depression or extreme stress as a part of the syndrome. Remember, you are not alone. You and your partner may be experiencing the same thing. You can hep each other.

 

References:

1. Villines, Zawn. “Couvade Syndrome: When Expectant Dads Get Pregnancy Syndrome.” Good Therapy, https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/couvade-syndrome-when-expectant-dads-get-pregnancy-symptoms-0116197. Accessed March 13, 2020.