Since you found out you were pregnant, has your partner been complaining about many of the same symptoms you have had? Morning sickness, weight gain, bloating and mood swings? There may be a good explanation. Believe it or not, some men do share in more than the simply the joy of being an expectant parent—they actually develop the physical symptoms of pregnancy. This phenomenon has a name—it is called Couvade syndrome, although many people know it as a sympathetic pregnancy. Couvade comes from the French word that means “to hatch.”
Scientists aren’t sure whether Couvade syndrome is a physical or psychological phenomenon—or a little of both. Men actually do experience hormonal changes throughout their partner’s pregnancy. According to an article in Scientific American “prolactin is highest in men in the weeks just before the birth, testosterone is lowest in the days immediately after the birth, estradiol levels increase from before to after the birth, and cortisol peaks during the labor and delivery (although it remains an order of magnitude below the hormonal experience of the laboring mother).” So it seems that many of the same hormones that affect women during pregnancy also affect men as well—who knew?
But as of right now, the hormonal basis of Couvade syndrome has not been proven. There are many other events that occur during pregnancy and around the time of childbirth that could affect a man’s hormone levels. Stressors such as concerns about becoming a father, extended family coming in for possibly extended stays, and financial worries could also be contributing factors. And, not all men experience pregnancy-like symptoms when their partner is expecting. It is hard to know exactly how many men actually experience Couvade syndrome, but depending on who you ask, the estimates range from 20-80%. Was your husband one of them?
Being an expectant parent is an exciting time for both moms and dads but it can also be stressful. Becoming a dad, just like becoming a mom, begins before delivery. If your partner is experiencing any pregnancy symptoms, just remember that they will go away soon—once your little one arrives, his symptoms will disappear. And then you both will forget any of those unpleasant pregnancy symptoms and be entirely focused on the new little bundle of joy in your world!