Morning sickness, cramps, back pain, hunger pangs, weight gain—all normal symptoms when you’re pregnant. But what if your husband or male partner is suffering those same signs right along with you?
This is called Couvade Syndrome, which comes from the French word ‘couver’ meaning ‘to hatch,’ and occurs when men experience the same pregnancy symptoms—both physical and psychological—as their partners. Although it’s not a recognized medical condition, many doctors believe it’s caused by anxiety of impending fatherhood. The symptoms typically disappear soon after the baby is born.
The range of symptoms a man will experience varies, and there isn’t enough research to determine just how common Couvade Syndrome is, but experts report that the condition is most common when wives are in their first and third trimesters. Symptoms include:
- Physical symptoms: These might include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, appetite changes, respiratory problems, toothaches, leg cramps, backaches, and urinary or genital irritations.
- Psychological symptoms: These can include changes in sleeping patterns, anxiety, depression, reduced libido, and restlessness.
What can dads do?
Since anxiety is thought to be the cause of sympathy pregnancies, it’s important that an expectant father experiencing Couvade has the opportunity to talk about his worries with his wife, doctor, family, or friends. It’s also important for the dad-to-be to educate himself about what to expect when baby arrives by reading books and taking a prenatal and baby care class with his spouse.
Reviewed by Dr. Diana Huang, May 2020
- Couvade Syndrome is when men experience the same pregnancy symptoms—both physical and psychological—as their partners.
- Although it’s not a recognized medical condition, many doctors believe it’s caused by anxiety of impending fatherhood.
- The condition is most common when women are in their first and third trimesters.