Couvade syndrome

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

The source of Couvade Syndrome 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.[2]

The name derives from "couvade", a class of male pregnancy rituals.


Symptoms experienced by the partner can include stomach pain, back pain, indigestion, changes in appetite, weight gain, acne, diarrhea, constipation, headache, toothache,[3] cravings, nausea, breast augmentation, breast growth, dry navel, hardening of the nipple, excessive earwax, and insomnia.[2] A qualitative study listed 35 symptoms from Couvade literature, including gastrointestinal, genitourinary, respiratory, oral or dental, stiffening of the glutes, generalized aches and pains, and other symptoms.[4]

Psychological hypotheses[edit]

Psychological causes suggested have included anxiety, pseudo-sibling rivalry, identification with the fetus, ambivalence about fatherhood, or parturition envy.[3] According to Osvlosky and Culp (1989), pregnancy causes the male counterpart to experience an emergence of ambivalence as well as a recurrence of Oedipal conflict.[5] In 1920s France, Couvade was claimed to be more common in conditions where sex roles are flexible and the female is of a dominant status.[6]

Physiological hypotheses[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, typically starting at the end of the first trimester and continuing through several weeks post-partum.[7]


  1. ^ Lack, Evonne (April 2012). "Strange but true: Couvade syndrome (sympathetic pregnancy)". Baby Center.
  2. ^ a b "Partners suffer from phantom pregnancy". BBC. 14 June 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  3. ^ a b Klein, Hilary (1991). "Couvade syndrome: Male counterpart to pregnancy". International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. 21 (1): 57–69. doi:10.2190/FLE0-92JM-C4CN-J83T. PMID 2066258. S2CID 31911721.
  4. ^ Brennan, Arthur; Marshall-Lucette, Sylvie; Ayers, Susan; Ahmed, Hafez (February 2007). "A qualitative exploration of the Couvade syndrome in expectant fathers" (PDF). Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. 25 (1): 18–39. doi:10.1080/02646830601117142. S2CID 59408475.
  5. ^ Brennan, Arthur; Ayers, Susan; Ahmed, Hafez; Marshall-Lucette, Sylvie (August 2007). "A critical review of the Couvade syndrome: the pregnant male" (PDF). Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. 25 (3): 173–89. doi:10.1080/02646830701467207. S2CID 6557207.
  6. ^ Abensour, Léon (1921). Histoire générale du féminisme des origines à nos jours [General History of feminism origins to the present day] (in French). Delagrave. p. 11. OCLC 220162157.
  7. ^ Storey, Anne E.; Walsh, Carolyn J.; Quinton, Roma L.; Wynne-Edwards, Katherine E. (March 2000). "Hormonal correlates of paternal responsiveness in new and expectant fathers". Evolution and Human Behavior. 21 (2): 79–95. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(99)00042-2. PMID 10785345.

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