Couvade Syndrome

Couvade Syndrome


Dad's Pregnancy Symptoms

Finally that precious moment has come and you are expecting. Soon all the common symptoms such as nausea, morning fatigue, back and belly pains will follow. You might notice that for some unknown reasons your husband seems to share all of those symptoms with you. He doesn’t do that on purpose; apparently he is experiencing what is called a couvade syndrome, or sympathetic pregnancy.

The term comes from the French word couver, which means “to brood” or “to hatch”. Couvade syndrome is a complex of psychosomatic and psychogenic disorders that might occur in young men during their partner’s pregnancy.

This syndrome was described in ancient times, where men during their spouses’ labor imitated contractions, refused food and drinks, and suffered with their partners. It was thought that this way the men would take on some of the pain. Studies show that about 40 % of men experience some symptoms of the couvade syndrome during their partner’s pregnancy.

Couvade Syndrome Symptoms

Couvade Syndrome 1

Common symptoms include:

  • Appetite changes;
  • Eating habits changes;
  • Morning fatigue;
  • Morning sickness and nausea caused by certain foods and smells;
  • Abdominal pain (usually mistaken for appendicitis);
  • Gastric distress (cramps, diarrhea, constipation);
  • Backaches;
  • Toothaches;
  • Sympathy pain (when a father-to-be experiences the same pains as his pregnant partner).

These symptoms are accompanied with other factors such as emotional instability, increased irritability, inner stress, depression, petulance, intolerance, insomnia etc. Men’s mood swings can be even worse than those of pregnant women.

It’s important to remember that the emotional instability of men is worsened by their fear of labor. Unfortunately this emotional condition can last until the end of their partner’s pregnancy.

Clinical Course

The Couvade symptoms in men usually appear during the 3rd month of the partner’s pregnancy, with its peak during the 9th month (38 weeks). In some cases the symptoms go away as soon as the baby is born, in others only after the woman’s full recovery from the delivery.

The Origin

Couvade Syndrome 2

Couvade syndrome usually happens in men who expect their first child, but sometimes it can happen during the second pregnancy as well. The men who experience couvade syndrome are usually hysterical types, who are prone to anxiety and tantrums. They can’t control feelings and are easily struck with panic.

Usually such men were raised by either a single mother or in a family where mother’s role was more influential. Men who have ruling mothers usually choose the same type partners. They unconsciously choose strong women who make all the decisions and patronize them. Quite often they have problems in their sex life and in particular premature ejaculation, which can cause inferiority complex and feeling of guilt.

Psychologists think that couvade syndrome can be explained by a theory where a man identifies himself with his mother to get purification of his guilt. Another theory proposes that the syndrome is caused by the unconscious fear for the future baby and mother and a feeling of guilt for the labor pains that woman has to experience.

Couvade Syndrome Treatment

Couvade syndrome is a nervous system disorder, which needs to be treated as such. Firstly, one needs to steady their nerves. All psychosomatic disorders start with thoughts and emotions. To treat this, a doctor prescribes sedatives.

Secondly, mental therapy is highly recommended. Though grief counseling is not common in our country yet, often it’s the only solution in this situation. A father-to-be can be taken to hospital with a suspected gastric distress or appendicitis but quickly released when the diagnosis is not confirmed.

It’s become a trend for a man to be present during childbirth. However if a man suffers from couvade syndrome, his presence during childbirth can become a problem. A doctor needs to examine a man prior to the childbirth.

Only a few health care specialists (apart from psychiatrists) are familiar with this syndrome yet. If gynecologists, surgeons, and obstetricians were familiar with this syndrome, they could help those men who are present during childbirth and suffer from couvade syndrome. In this case the woman would have one worry less during the labor.

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