Women's  Healthcare Topics is a website about pregnancy and your newborn baby.

Man's Sympathetic Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Couvade Syndrome

Did you know that men can also experience pregnancy?

Did you know that men can also experience pregnancy? While it’s impossible for your husband to feel the baby growing inside of him, he can experience morning sickness and other pregnancy symptoms, as well as gain weight throughout your pregnancy. This phenomenon is called Couvade Syndrome or a sympathetic pregnancy.

Couvade Syndrome can start as early as the first trimester and last until your baby is born. Some men are so tied to their significant others and their unborn babies that they can experience “contractions” near the time of labor.

Researchers aren’t sure how common Couvade Syndrome is, but some experts estimate that it affects anywhere between 11 and 65 percent of fathers-to-be. Sympathetic pregnancies are a universal phenomenon; there have been cases all over the world and throughout many centuries.

What Causes Couvade Syndrome?

The cause of Couvade Syndrome isn’t known, but researchers have a number of theories. It may be due to the man’s desire to ease his wife’s pain by sharing in it. It is also possible that your partner feels so close to you and the new life you’ve created that he experiences pregnancy symptoms to offer support. There’s also the possibility that he feels guilty for causing pregnancy, so he takes on your symptoms.

Interestingly, some women report that their pregnancy symptoms tend to be mild during their husband’s sympathetic pregnancy. For example, if he experiences severe nausea and vomiting in the first trimester, she may have no symptoms at all.

Whatever the cause of a man’s sympathetic pregnancy, the symptoms will go away once your baby is born.

It’s very important that you allow your husband to get involved with your pregnancy. Allow him to go with you on your prenatal visits. The two of you should also take a childbirth or parenting class together. Although no class can beat personal experience, classes may help you and your significant other feel better prepared for your baby’s arrival into the world.

In addition, when you experience pregnancy as a couple, you typically have a happier, less stressful pregnancy. It’s easier to cope with the emotional ups and downs that come with expecting a baby.

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