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 as 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, fatigue, postpartum depression, and nosebleeds.[2] The labor pain symptom is commonly known as sympathy pain.

Couvade syndrome is not recognized as a real syndrome by many medical professionals.[3] 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.[4]


Symptoms experienced by the partner can include stomach pain, back pain, indigestion, changes in appetite, weight gain, acne, diarrhea, constipation, headache, toothache,[5] cravings, nausea, breast augmentation, breast growth, dry navel, hardening of the nipple, excessive earwax, and insomnia.[4] 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.[6]

Psychological theories[edit]

Psychological causes suggested have included anxiety, pseudo-sibling rivalry, identification with the fetus, ambivalence about fatherhood, or parturition envy.[5][7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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, typically starting at the end of the first trimester and continuing through several weeks post-partum.[10]


  1. ^ Lack, Evonne (April 2012). "Strange but true: Couvade syndrome (sympathetic pregnancy)". Baby Center.[self-published source?]
  2. ^ Counihan, Carole (1999). The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning, and Power. New York: Routledge. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-415-92193-0.
  3. ^ "Sympathetic Pregnancy: Is Couvade Syndrome Real?". BabyMed. 2012-04-14.
  4. ^ a b "Partners suffer from phantom pregnancy". BBC. 14 June 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Brennan, Arthur; Marshall-Lucette, Sylvie; Ayers, Susan; Ahmed, Hafez (February 2007). "A qualitative exploration of the Couvade syndrome in expectant fathers". Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. 25 (1): 18–39. doi:10.1080/02646830601117142.
  7. ^ Griffiths, Mark (2012). "Things That Go Bump: A Brief Overview of Couvade Syndrome".[self-published source?]
  8. ^ Brennan, Arthur; Ayers, Susan; Ahmed, Hafez; Marshall-Lucette, Sylvie (August 2007). "A critical review of the Couvade syndrome: the pregnant male". Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. 25 (3): 173–89. doi:10.1080/02646830701467207.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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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