Couvade syndrome

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Couvade syndrome, also called sympathetic pregnancy, is a proposed condition in which a partner experiences some of the same symptoms and behavior of an expectant mother.[1] These most often include minor weight gain, altered hormone levels, morning nausea, and disturbed sleep patterns. In more extreme cases, symptoms can include labor pains, postpartum depression, and nosebleeds.[2] The labor pain symptom is commonly known as sympathy pain.

Couvade syndrome is not a recognized medical condition. Its source is a matter of debate. Some believe it to be a psychosomatic condition, while others believe it may have biological causes relating to hormone changes.[3]


Symptoms experienced by the partner can include stomach pain, back pain, indigestion, changes in appetite, weight gain, acne, diarrhea, constipation, headache, toothache,[4] cravings, nausea, breast augmentation, hardening of the nipple, and insomnia.[3] A qualitative study listed 35 symptoms from Couvade literature, including gastro-intestinal, genito-urinary, respiratory, oral or dental, generalized aches and pains, and other symptoms.[5]

Psychological theories[edit]

Psychological causes suggested have included anxiety, pseudo-sibling rivalry, identification with the fetus, ambivalence about fatherhood, or parturition envy.[4] [6] According to Osvlosky and Culp (1989), pregnancy causes the male counterpart to experience an emergence of ambivalence as well as a reoccurrence of Oedipal conflict.[7] Couvade appears to be more common in conditions where sex roles are flexible and the female is of a dominant status.[8]

Physiological theories[edit]

Studies have shown that the male partner cohabitating with a pregnant female will experience hormonal shifts in his prolactin, cortisol, estradiol, and testosterone levels,[9] typically starting at the end of the first trimester and continuing through several weeks post-partum.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lack, E. (2012, April). Strange but true: Couvade syndrome (sympathetic pregnancy). Retrieved June 19, 2013 from Baby Center. [1]
  2. ^ Counihan, Carole. The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning, and Power. New York: Routledge, 1999. p.69
  3. ^ a b "Partners suffer from phantom pregnancy". BBC. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Klein, 1991
  5. ^ Brennan, A., Marshall-Lucette, S., Ayers, S., & Ahmed, H. (2007). A qualitative exploration of the Couvade syndrome in expectant fathers. Journal Of Reproductive And Infant Psychology [serial online], 25, 18-39.
  6. ^ Griffiths, M., (2012)., Things That Go Bump: A Brief Overview of Couvade Syndrome.
  7. ^ Brennan, A.,(2007), "A critical review of the Couvade syndrome: the pregnant male." Journal of Reproductive and Clinical Psychology. [serial online]. August 2007;25(3):173-189. Available from: PsycINFO, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 29, 2013.from EBSCOhost
  8. ^ Abensour, Léon. Histoire générale du féminisme. 
  9. ^ a b A.E. Storey; C.J. Walsh, R.L. Quinton, K.E. Wynne-Edwards (2000). "Hormonal Correlates of Paternal Responsiveness in new and expectant fathers". Evolution and Human Behavior 21: 79–95. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(99)00042-2. PMID 10785345.

Further reading[edit]

  • Klein, H. Couvade syndrome: male counterpart to pregnancy. Int J Psychiatry Med, 21: 1, 1991, 57-69.

External links[edit]