The Couvade syndrome poster boy

We’ve all heard the stories; most of us have actually experienced it: “sympathy pains,” or other symptoms in common with your partner’s during her pregnancy. I know I did. I got nauseated, had mood swings right along with her, even gained a few pounds. Of course, she wasn’t terribly sympathetic to my sympathy pains… Most guys seem to feel a bit embarrassed by it, but don’t worry–it’s not all in your head, after all! There’s physical evidence that sympathy pains are real, and there’s a name for it: Couvade syndrome.

Couvade (a word that means “A practice in certain cultures in which the husband of a woman in labor takes to his bed as though he were bearing the child.”) syndrome is a term used to describe a situation in which an otherwise healthy man — whose partner is expecting a baby — experiences pregnancy-related symptoms. While some research suggests that Couvade syndrome (sympathetic pregnancy) is common, it isn’t a recognized mental illness or disease. Further studies are needed to determine whether Couvade syndrome is a physical condition with psychological causes.

Symptoms reported to be associated with Couvade syndrome vary widely and typically occur only during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. Physical symptoms may include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, appetite changes, respiratory problems, toothaches, leg cramps, backaches, and urinary or genital irritations. Psychological symptoms that may be related to Couvade syndrome include changes in sleeping patterns, anxiety, depression, reduced libido and restlessness.

It’s estimated that around 90% of men experience Couvade syndrome to some extent. So, don’t feel embarrassed. You’re definitely not alone!

Whether Couvade syndrome is real or not, what’s certain is that becoming a new dad can be exciting, emotional and stressful. If you’re a man whose partner is pregnant, take steps to manage stress and prepare for fatherhood. Attend prenatal classes. Seek out advice and encouragement from friends and family. Talk to your partner. Understanding and planning for the challenges ahead can help ease your transition into fatherhood.