A Father’s Pregnancy
As a father you may not actually have real morning sickness or swollen feet. You may not have to deal with the painful contractions or the breast-feeding in the middle of the night. However, just because you do not carry the baby for nine months does not mean that you don’t go through your own changes. A father’s pregnancy comes with subtle hormonal changes along with the mother-to-be during her pregnancy.
Couvade Syndrome gives a whole other meaning to the statement “We’re Pregnant”. Now a well-documented phenomenon, a ‘sympathy pregnancy’ explains why expecting fathers sometimes experience nausea, headaches, weight gain, and other pregnancy-esque symptoms without, obviously, being pregnant.
A Father’s Pregnancy: Symptoms
Not all medical professionals actually believe sympathetic pregnancies are a real syndrome, but rather that it is a psychosomatic condition primarily for first-time fathers. Here however are some of the very real symptoms that these men experience: changes in appetite, cravings, nausea, weight fluctuation, acne, stomach and back pain, indigestion, breast size variations or augmentation, hardened nipples, insomnia, or any other of the 35 recorded symptoms of Couvade. They can span as much the genital, gastro-intestinal, respiratory, oral, dental, and muscular systems, and include broad-spectrum aches and pains. But those are just the physical symptoms. There are also psychological symptoms such as altered sleeping patterns, anxiety, depression, decreased sex drive, and agitation.
A Father’s Pregnancy: Causes of Couvade’s
Are you just trying to get a little attention? After all it is the woman that gets all the fame and glory of pregnancy and labor. Nevertheless, while medical professionals are not sure what causes Couvade’s, general consensus is it’s not attention seeking. If you are dealing with Couvade’s, some doctor’s would say it’s psychological. Starting a new family is clearly very stressful. There are financial concerns, health concerns, educational concerns, and not just for you anymore. Bringing a new human being into this world will release stress hormones that can cause Couvade Syndrome. When you add sympathy to stress, especially if there have been issues with getting pregnant, the chances of experiencing Couvade’s only increases.
Research suggests that while this may be psychological, it could also be hormonal. Studies have shown that levels of testosterone in expectant fathers decrease as the baby grows. Don’t worry- this isn’t dangerous or irreversible. However, these levels may decrease so that you have a more nurturing temperament to take care of your kid when it arrives. Levels of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”, seem to increase in fathers-to-be, which is associated with more fatherly behaviour. Chances are if you are an expectant father, your body is also changing to accommodate the arrival of your baby.
Who Get’s Couvade Syndrome?
Again, Couvade Syndrome is not a medically recognized disease, but is a fairly common phenomenon experienced by expecting fathers across different backgrounds. There is no singular global investigation done on Couvade Syndrome, however, some recent studies have shown that sympathy pregnancies are found regularly in fathers across Asia, America, and Europe.
If you are worried that you will definitely get Couvade’s have no fear- studies show not everyone does. In one medical study, about 23 percent of the expecting fathers studied had some form of sympathetic pregnancy that they then sought treatment for. This percentage may not be completely representative not only because only 267 men were studied, but also because deciding who has Couvade Syndrome and who does not is quite difficult. While lots of studies agree that symptoms usually begin during the first trimester, symptoms are extremely varied and so is the timeline in which they can appear. However, just because you happen to have a backache, some nausea, and your wife is pregnant does that mean you have Couvade Syndrome? For all you know you may just be sick.
A Father’s Pregnancy: What Happens Post Pregnancy
The cure is simple: Birth. While this should definitely solve the issue, most of the time it doesn’t even get that far. Once in a while an expecting father may have sympathy birth pains (which could be solved with some ibuprofen), but nothing that would ever be considered long term or dangerous.
However, a father’s pregnancy doesn’t necessarily end there. Postpartum depression is a depressive episode experienced by mothers after childbirth, usually as the result of changing hormones and psychological stress and weariness. While far less prevalent in men, postnatal depression is something that new father’s can experience in the two months after childbirth. It is usually less acute than postpartum, but can be just as serious for the father and the child. So, if either you or your wife has the blues after the baby is born, make sure you seek help. If not, it could influence your child’s emotional development.
Being an expectant father is exciting, stressful, emotional and terrifying. Make sure to communicate with your partner, seek help from your friends and family, plan ahead of time for the foreseeable obstacles you can face, and also take care of yourself. Whether Couvade Syndrome is real or not, if you are an expectant father take steps to get the stress under control and ready yourself for the upcoming adventure that is fatherhood.
Deepti is a writer that specialises in neuroscience and psychology. She is passionate about modern medicine and finding other therapeutic techniques, and how both of these effect the developing brain. Deepti is extremely interested in the future of mental health awareness and treatment, and is always open to advice.