What is Couvade Syndrome?
Couvade syndrome is a proposed condition in which a partner of an expectant mother experiences some of the same symptoms and behavior. It is also called as sympathetic pregnancy or pregnant dad syndrome. There have been many cultures that have noted Couvade syndrome including ancient human cultures. It is observed that those who have a history of infertility suffer more often due to this syndrome.(7)
Symptoms & Signs
A pregnant woman may have to contend with pregnancy ailments like irritability, mood swings, cravings, nausea, etc. If all these symptoms were not found, imagine if the partner started experiencing those symptoms. The symptoms tend to appear in men towards the final weeks before birth as well as the third month of their partner’s pregnancy. (1)
Physical and Psychological
Some of the physical and psychological symptoms that men experience Couvades syndrome early in their partner’s pregnancy are:
- Minor weight gain
- Altered hormone levels
- Morning nausea
- Disturbed sleep
- Leg cramps
- Abdominal pain
- Anxiety and jealousy feelings
- Stress over the baby’s future
- Creating emotional connection with his pregnant wife
- High levels of prolactin and cortisol in men after the baby’s birth
- Back pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nose bleeding
- Itchy skin
The syndrome is most common in first time fathers. The syndrome is most severe during the third month or fourth month of the wife’s pregnancy.
The symptoms of testosterone reduction is an offshoot of men pregnancy. The three signs are
- Problems with erection
- Depression or lethargic for no reason
- Not thinking too much about sex
Changing of eating habits including exercises can overcome the signs.
Some research has suggested that first-time fathers and men who had distant or ambivalent relationships with their own dads are most at risk for developing couvade syndrome, but there’s really no way to know who will be affected. There’s also no treatment for those who suffer from it, other than to try to relax and relieve any anxiety. There is, however, a surefire cure, and it doesn’t even require any effort on the part of the man: not surprisingly, 100 percent of cases of couvade syndrome clear up immediately following childbirth.
There are number of possible causes of Couvade syndrome that includes:
- Couvade syndrome is caused due to psychiatric disorder.
- It also results from real biological changes in the expected father’s body.
- It is a reaction to a changed role of feeling and assuming the social responsibilities and expectations associated with fatherhood.
- Refers to physical symptoms caused by emotional factors such as stress or headaches
- Pseudo-sibling rivalry
- A ploy of some men to grab attention
- Assertion of paternity
- Identification with the fetus
- Envy of woman’s capacity to bear a child (7)
Couvade syndrome has been most commonly found in Western countries in recent times. This type of syndrome is generally caused due to huge involvement of the father during the entire pregnancy process as fathers are encouraged to take active participation.(4)
How to diagnose Couvade syndrome ?
Couvade syndrome may not have an official diagnosis with a dedicated treatment plan. But the symptoms of the syndrome are real for the person experiencing the illness. The syndrome becomes severe in the third trimester. It is most commonly found in societies which culturally accept it. Some psychoanalysts claim that couvades syndrome is an expression of a man’s anxiety about his partner’s pregnancy.
It could be the way for men to release jealous feelings about inability to carry a child or soliciting positive attention when they feel overlooked publicly. Many men believe that Couvades is a response to modern views on parenting. They feel supportive to the uncomfortable effects of pregnancy along with their partner. It is rooted biologically as studies show that men with pregnant partners tend to have higher levels of female hormones in their blood like estrodial.
There is no specific treatment for Couvade syndrome. But an expectant father can prevent suffering from this condition that includes the following:
- Couple should speak frequently about baby’s future to feel becoming a parent
- Encourage men to take active role providing support during pregnancy
- Each case must be treated with either medication or therapy to alleviate the discomfort
- Preparing future dads that Couvade syndrome symptoms are real
- Ginger or peppermint tea are herbal remedies that help to relieve nausea
- Movement therapy like yoga or meditation can be alternative treatments
- Strengthen nervous system
- Consume large quantities of vitamin B and C
- Consume minerals like magnesium and zinc (6), (2)
After the baby is born almost Couvade syndrome goes away.
- Avery, M. (2013) Supporting a Physiologic Approach to Pregnancy and Birth: A Practical Guide.
- Lowdermilk, DL and Perry, SE. (2010) Maternity Nursing, 8th Edition
- Mason, C., and R. Elwood. “Is There a Physiological Basis for the Couvade and Onset of Paternal Care?” InternationalJournal of Nursing Studies 32 (April 1995): 137-148.
- Masoni S, Maio A, Trimarchi G, de Punzio C, Fioretti P. The couvade syndrome. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1994 Sep;15(3):125-31.
- Mayer, C., and H. P. Kapfhammer. “Couvade Syndrome, A Psychogenic Illness in the Transition to Fatherhood.” [inGerman] Fortschritte der Neurologie-Psychiatrie 61 (October 1993): 354-360.
- Reed, Richard K. Birthing Fathers: The Transformation of Men in American Rites of Birth. Piscataway, NJ: RutgersUniversity Press, 2005
- Simkin, P. et al (2010) Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide.