Couvade syndrome, also called Sympathetic pregnancy, is a proposed condition in which an expectant father experiences some of the same symptoms and behavior as his pregnant partner.
Couvade as we know it today could be connected to the shifting perspectives on fatherhood and the more participatory role expectant dads may play during pregnancy and childbirth
This condition has not been recognized as either a medical or mental health issue.
Physical signs and symptoms of sympathetic pregnancy (couvade syndrome in men) can include the following –
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Intestinal problems such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation
• Changes in appetite
• Weight gain or loss
• Skin problems
• Leg cramps
• Urinary or genital irritations.
Symptoms associated with sympathetic pregnancy tend to develop in the first trimester. If you think about it, the first trimester is generally you experience morning sickness, exhaustion, and other not-so-joyful physical symptoms of pregnancy.
Interestingly, the symptoms of Couvade syndrome may subside during the second trimester, which also tends to happen in pregnancy.
For pregnant people, the second trimester is sometimes anecdotally referred to as the “honeymoon period” because they may generally feel good. Partners dealing with Couvade syndrome generally feel good, too.
Sympathetic pregnancy symptoms then tend to return and worsen in the third trimester and as birth nears. Again, this closely aligns with regular pregnancy ills and discomforts that you experience as your body prepares for birth.
If you’re dealing with Couvade in your household, we can point you to two likely suspects: stress and empathy. Stress releases chemicals in the body that can manifest as sympathetic pregnancy. And let’s face it, with financial worries, health concerns, and good old-fashioned cold feet, pregnancy is often stressful for both parties. Add a little empathy to the mix, and you have a perfect recipe for a sympathetic pregnancy.
Couples who have dealt with infertility or pregnancy loss, for example, are particularly susceptible.
There is no specific treatment for couvade syndrome, which, as mentioned above, is not considered a disease or recognized as a psychological condition. However, if you’re an expectant dad and have symptoms that mimic those of your pregnant partner—in other words, symptoms of couvade syndrome—there are ways to ease the symptoms. Taking the following steps during your partner’s pregnancy may help with some of the more challenging physical and emotional symptoms of couvade syndrome.
• Prep yourself. This may involve attending a prenatal class with your pregnant partner and/or reading up on books, websites, or blogs on fatherhood.
• Talk to someone. Have a conversation with your partner about parenthood. Speak to close friends and family about your inhibitions. They may give you some unsolicited advice, but it may be worth listening. Or, speak to a psychologist/therapist who can give you the tools to cope with your anxieties.
• Plan ahead for the challenges. This may involve babyproofing the house in advance, or just mentally preparing yourself for the big change of being a father for the first time.
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