Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Couvade Syndrome?
This is a psychological phenomenon observed in some pregnant women’s partners. The partner is experiencing some or all of the pregnancy symptoms of the soon-to-be mother. There have been many cultures that have noted this syndrome, including ancient human cultures. How frequent this happens will vary because not many cases of couvade syndrome are reported. It is also known as sympathetic pregnancy. It is possible that couvade syndrome will repeat itself in future pregnancies. It has been found that between eleven and sixty-five percent of the fathers-to-be have experience couvade symptoms. It is also noted that those who have a history of infertility suffer this syndrome more often.
When does Couvade syndrome start?
When the partner develops couvade syndrome it will normally start to manifest around the end of the first trimester.
- Weight gain
- Physical discomfort
- Mood changes
- Disturbed sleep patterns such as insomnia
- Altered hormone levels
- Pain in their back and stomach
- Appetite changes
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
- Leg cramps
- Itchy skin
Other symptoms may occur as the mother-to-be progresses through her pregnancy but what they will be and how severe varies from person to person. There are some who even experience labor pain in the form of discomfort and abdominal cramping. There have been rare occasions where the partner will also develop postpartum depression if the mother does. If the person develops couvade syndrome in future pregnancies the symptoms may be the same or different.
The exact cause for the partner to develop couvade syndrome is not known but there are several factors that may contribute to it developing. In some men they release hormones during the pregnancy of the mother-to-be and is thought to be a way to help the man to prepare himself for fatherhood. Some of those hormones can include cortisol, testosterone, prolactin, and estradiol. Because many of the pregnancy symptoms are related to hormonal changes this is why researchers think this could cause couvade syndrome to develop. Some other researchers have attributed the syndrome to psychological motivations such as stress or guilt.
There is no treatment because as soon as the mother-to-be gives birth couvade syndrome will go away. For the symptoms treating them is usually the same as treating them for the mother-to-be, which include:
- Gentle exercise
- Eating a balanced diet
If there are emotional factors that could be causing couvade syndrome it can help to address them and help both parent be more prepared for labor, delivery, and parenting. Sometimes it might help to talk to a mental health professional if there are any concerns or fears about the pregnancy.