How to be a Pregnant Father

A husband should sympathise with his wife’s pregnancy symptoms… to an extent, gentlemen!!

My brother and his pregnant wife spent the weekend with us. I haven’t seen them since she was in her first trimester, and not showing yet. Now she is definitely showing! I told my mother later on that I wasn’t sure who gained more pregnancy weight, my brother or his wife. My mom was not amused.

Not only has he gained weight, he seemed exceptionally tired. Both of them dozed off on the couch quite a number of times. Having been twice been pregnant myself, I understand the sheer exhaustion that comes with growing a baby. But what was his excuse? (Ya, sure, you were up late studying on Thursday, uh huh…) And I saw him in the kitchen polishing off the rest of the brownies. Pregnancy cravings are reserved for the Mama, so stop eating! At least he wasn’t racing her to the bathroom every five minutes….

Well I don’t know what we can attribute my brother’s new appetite, added pounds, and drowsiness to, but some men experience a real, medical condition, complete with morning sickness and vomiting! According to About.com, it’s called Couvade Syndrome.

Couvade comes from the French word couvee meaning “to hatch”. It has come to mean a man having a “sympathetic pregnancy.” Yes, ladies, this means that your partner could start to vomit, gain weight, and have many of the “joys” associated with pregnancy.

Generally, couvade syndrome begins in the end of the first trimester and increases in severity until the third trimester. The only known cure for couvade is — birth.

You may be skeptical (especially if you’re the pregnant woman!), but this is something that has actually been researched and found to be quite real. Some estimate that nearly 80% of men feel some form of the symptoms of a sympathetic pregnancy. Believe it or not, some men even experience labor pains (but if they expect to get sympathy for that, they better think again!)

Symptoms of Couvade Syndrome include:

  • nausea and morning sickness
  • weight gain
  • heartburn
  • fatigue
  • bowels changes
  • cravings
  • headache
  • abdominal cramps
  • changes in sexual desire.

A note to the men: Pregnancy etc suggests that there are more constructive ways for men to experience your own sympathetic pregnancy, rather than laying on the couch, moaning. Or eating her ice cream. Don’t forget that she is probably feeling a more intense version of what you’re feeling — take good care of her! If you want to be supportive, try the following:

  • Cravings: Your wife may have cravings — weird cravings — indulge her, but be careful about indulging too much yourself. Avoiding these typically fatty, spicy and sweet treats will help you avoid the sympathetic heartburn, weight gain and indigestion associated with sympathetic pregnancy. Keep some healthier versions of her cravings around so that you can eat alongside her without fearing the extra fat and calories. It may be a good thing — she may choose to eat healthier alongside you.
  • Exercise: If you find yourself indulging a bit too much in your wife’s pregnancy cravings, encourage her to get out for a walk with you, or take a yoga class with her. You may be surrounded by pregnant moms, but they’ll all appreciate your effort!
  • Sleep: Sleep deprivation is a common pregnancy woe. New dads may be doing their own tossing and turning due to the stress and worry of a baby on the way. They may also lose sleep because their wife is having difficulty sleeping. Make your wife comfortable, sleep in the guest room or buy a bigger bed!
  • Stress/Anticipation: You and your wife may be worried about your new baby, especially if it is your first. Support your wife and alleviate your worries by taking childbirth education classes, participate in a daddy boot camp and help your wife prepare for the baby by getting the nursery ready, getting the baby’s layette, etc. Being prepared can go a long way in alleviating the stress and associated side affects of pregnancy.

A note to the women: Though you might be tempted to roll your eyes and tell your dear husband to knock it off, you might have to admit that his symptoms are not purely psychosomatic . Associated Content says that According to Science Daily, a Canadian study points to hormonal changes as a possibly cause for Couvade Syndrome. Researchers found elevated levels of the hormone estradiol and lower levels of testosterone and cortisol in expectant dads. The hormone estradiol is connected with motherly feelings. A previous study also noted an increase of the hormone prolactin, a female hormone that is linked with the production of milk in women. So it looks like approaching fatherhood leads to hormonal changes too… Pregnancy is full of changes on many levels, and fathers may feel it as well!

Spend time together. Talk about your feelings, talk to your doctor, take a birth class or a tour of the hospital. Decorate the nursery, or shop here for new baby items together! Make it a bonding experience!

How to be a Pregnant Father: This is an actual book! Get in on Amazon.com!

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