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Couvade Syndrome- Male Pregnancy Symptoms

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Rose Mary is an Air Force veteran and an Occupational Therapist. She enjoys researching and writing on a variety of topics.

My dad craved dill pickles with saltine crackers when my mom was pregnant with me.  He’s kinda a macho man type, so not the man you would likely pick for sympathetic pregnancy symptoms.  Not that he was unsympathetic, just an unlikely candidate for male pregnancy symptoms.  None of my many uncles ever fessed up to such an occurrence.  They must have been telling lies of omission, as some researchers have proposed that as many as 80% of expectant fathers experience pregnancy symptoms. 

What is Couvade Syndrome?

Couvade Syndrome is the phenomenon whereby a man who lives with a pregnant woman experiences symptoms of pregnancy. Male pregnancy symptoms include morning sickness, food cravings, weight gain, heartburn, cramps, mood swings, fatigue, back pain, depression, insomnia, fainting, and stomach swelling resembling a baby bump.

Male pregnancy symptoms of Couvade Syndrome are thought to be most common in the early stages of the pregnancy of their partner, and with the first child. Reports abound however on message boards of male pregnancy symptoms with the second child, the last child, or variations, and of symptoms for the duration of the pregnancy. Some men experience pain that appears similar to contractions and labor pain.

Men's Weight Gain During Pregnancy

A British study looked at weight gain as a male pregnancy symptom. In an online survey by Onepoll, 5000 expectant fathers were surveyed. Results indicated an average weight gain of 14 lbs during their partner’s pregnancy. They experienced an increase of two inches in their waist measurements, with 25% having to buy bigger pants. Only 30% reported joining their partner in dieting after the birth of the baby.

Studies of Male Pregnancy Symptoms

Most doctors seem skeptical of male pregnancy symptoms, and do not recognize Couvade Syndrome as a medical condition. A team at St. George’s University in London interviewed 282 expectant fathers, aged 19 to 55. They concluded “the vast majority” of subjects experienced male pregnancy symptoms, or sympathetic pregnancy symptoms.

Dr. Arthur Brennan, head researcher, insists that Couvade Syndrome is real, and the expectant fathers are not merely seeking attention. Brennan stated male pregnancy symptoms are involuntary, and the men are so in tune with their partners that they start to develop the same symptoms.

The midwives program at St. George’s concurred with findings, saying men commonly complained of nausea during their partner’s early pregnancy. Dr. Harriet Gross, Loughborough University Human Sciences senior lecturer, states Couvade Syndrome exists, and likely has a sympathetic basis. She further states the male pregnancy symptoms, which commonly manifest in early pregnancy, may be anxiety-related, due to the uncertainty of early pregnancy.

How Do Experts Explain Couvade?

“Psychology-based theories” site physical manifestations seen with Couvade as a subconscious means to adjust to pregnancy, for the man to identify with his partner, bond with the unborn baby, emphasize his fatherhood, or regain his partner’s attention.

Other explanations suggest male pregnancy symptoms may be an outlet for stress in preparation of fatherhood. Another hypothesis is that the disruptions to an expecting couple’s lives during pregnancy may interrupt the expectant father’s circadian rhythms. Disruptions to behavioral, physiological, and biochemical functions may be enough to cause male pregnancy symptoms.

More Studies on Expectant Fathers

Swiss researcher Tiziana Perini studied 37 couples to compare couples expecting their first baby with couples who did not have children. The expectant fathers had mood swings, and fluctuations in appetite and weight. The men without children did not experience these changes. Swiss TV interviewed a new father who reported dramatic increase in eating chocolate. Dr. Perini, a psychotherapist, hypothesized that men’s hormones change during their partner’s pregnancy, to help them feel more involved.

Canadian researchers, Wynne-Edwards and Storey, looked at hormone levels of men at various intervals during their partners’ pregnancies. They found high levels of estradiol, prolactin, and cortisol in the men, which are low in men who are not expectant fathers. These hormones are associated with stress response and aggression. The researchers hypothesize that these elevated hormones give expectant fathers the drive and endurance to protect and nurture.

Your Experience with Male Pregnancy Symptoms

My Resources for this Article

© 2010 rmcrayne


Singapore Gynae from Singapore on February 25, 2019:

Some of our clients' partners experience this too!

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Babydoll2012 on February 23, 2012:

So it says that this happens to men living with a pregnant woman... Not necessarily that the man in the biological father?

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 23, 2011:

moneycop maybe you can find an herbal remedy for this!

Jade, Thanks for sharing. Bet your dad took a lot of ribbing from his buddies.

Jade Monique Taylor Hiralal from Johannesburg - South Africa on September 27, 2011:

Thanks so much for the great article!

My dad experienced morning sickness when my mom was pregnant with me and my two younger sisters. My mom didn't have any morning sickness at all and my dad needed to be put on medication to help with the morning sickness he was having hahaha. I guess if we've gotta give birth they should at least share the symptoms with us :)

moneycop from JABALPUR on August 15, 2011:

How strange this is..not i have to be also afraid of women fear...hehehe

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on July 13, 2011:

Thanks for reading ciranoushj. Whatever the cause, weight gain by an expectant father is common.

ciranoushj on June 28, 2011:

Very interesting and something I had not heard about until I saw your hub. I have to say that I saw no evidence of this in my husband during my two pregnancies - but - he did put on weight, which I put down too the gact that I was sending him on birger-runs at midnight and he just "had" to have one with me!

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on June 27, 2011:

Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing Sun-Girl.

Sun-Girl from Nigeria on May 18, 2011:

Nice and a cool hub which i agree with you on all you said,am RATING THIS PARTICULAR ONE UP BECAUSE IT IS WELL SHARED.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on April 15, 2011:

Thanks for visiting Forex.

FOREX NINJA on March 29, 2011:

Interesting article which i enjoyed a lot from.Quite informative and well shared.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on September 30, 2010:

jcales, most of these studies were specifically referring to men who were living with a pregnant partner.

jcales on September 17, 2010:

Probably moreso the men that want to be Dads, what about the absentee or ones who are indifferent about the matter. I hate to be the critic but that's another angle b/c some will continue to drink alcoholic beverages, work-out in the gym, etc. But the studies do show something is happening.

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on July 30, 2010:

Thanks for the compliment dawn. According to my research, it's pretty typicsl that the men gain, but do not diet and lose the weight after.

Dawn Michael from THOUSAND OAKS on July 29, 2010:

interesting article really enjoyed it.....My husband gained 30 pounds when I got pregnant, I gained thirty pounds, so that fits with the story. I lost thirty pounds he didn't oh

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on April 29, 2010:

So true ethel!

Don't worry Gus, no offense taken.

Gustave Kilthau from USA on April 25, 2010:

Hi again Rose Mary - Nothing personal as to my opinion, above. I do admire that hormones increase in males when they hang around their wives and girlfriends. Don't have to actually measure those chemicals, either. All one need do is observe how the men act.

Gus ;-)

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on April 25, 2010:

Interesting. I guess it is only fair that they suffer a little when you think what the woman endures

rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on April 25, 2010:

Hey Paradise! What about the sympathy labor pains?

Careful Gus, you're talking about my dad there! ...estimated 80% of partners...and actual measured increases in hormones...

Gustave Kilthau from USA on April 24, 2010:

Rose Mary - Well, your article was well researched and well written. I have never looked into this situation before now, and I don't have the time to do so now either, but I certainly do have an opinion about "male pregnancy." Where it may exist is in the minds of less than stable fathers-to-be, particularly those who are sweating the thought of another mouth to be fed.

Gus ;-O

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on April 24, 2010:

The nausea, yeah, and you know, I notice prospective fathers can tend to put on weight, too...have you ever noticed that?

PS, the chocolate thing, maybe...I like so much that level of empathy in a partner.

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