Pregnancy can be a confusing time for dads. Their partners are experiencing all sorts of physical changes, and it’s hard to understand how best to be there as a support. After all, Dads don’t really know what Mom is going through—in most cases.
Yep, the old wive’s tale is scientific fact: some dads actually experience physical pregnancy symptoms like nausea, mood swings, and weight gain during pregnancy alongside their partner. The term for the condition is couvade syndrome, and it can be scary or frustrating. But it’s totally normal, and manageable!
Dad’s Pregnancy Symptoms
Couvade syndrome, also known as sympathetic pregnancy, presents in a number of symptoms that women typically feel during pregnancy:
- Nausea and upset stomach
- Irritability and mood swings
- Weight gain
- Swelling in hands and feet
- Abdominal cramping
If you’re an expecting dad getting any of these symptoms—or if you’re a mom and you’re tired of your partner mirroring your morning sickness—it’s not a cry for attention!
The science behind couvade syndrome
Most doctors believe that partners suffering from couvade syndrome are under a lot of stress, and that stress manifests as symptoms of pregnancy. It’s no wonder you’re stressed—a new baby can bring a lot of worries along with a lot of excitement. And at the same time, you’re watching your partner undergo a lot of serious changes—your empathy for her can also contribute to couvade syndrome.
A 1982 study found that a significant number of male partners sought treatments and exhibited common pregnancy symptoms during their partners’ pregnancy. A later study found that certain symptoms were exhibited in male partners in 11% - 65% of the observed population. So, if you’re cramping alongside your wife, you’re not alone!
The most commonly observed changes in men were emotional. And it’s no surprise—this is a stressful time, and a lot of men can feel helpless during their partner’s pregnancy. We’ve gathered some tools and resources for coping with couvade syndrome, so you can continue to care for your partner and yourself!
A 1982 study found that a significant number of male partners sought treatments and exhibited common pregnancy symptoms during their partners’ pregnancy.
The couvade syndrome survival guide
If you or your partner are experiencing couvade syndrome, there are plenty of things you can do to alleviate your symptoms! And chances are, Mom is experiencing the same things (but probably to a greater degree). Try these activities together to reduce stress and cultivate a healthier bond:
Support mom in her birthing classes
Go with mom to Lamaze classes so that you can learn some of the breathing exercises that will likely help reduce your own stress. Plus, learning how to help take care of her will help ease that feeling of helplessness that many dads-to-be experience.
Find your perfect stress release
Download a mindfulness app like Headspace, go to a meditation or yoga class in your area, or even consider speaking to a therapist. Many people say that they even feel better doing something simple like going for a walk, or listening to an audiobook. You could also surprise Mom with a couple’s massage, to help both of you relax!
Know what to expect when you're expecting
Reading up and educating yourself on everything to do with pregnancy will also help you calm down and feel in control. And once you feel like you know what Mom is going through, you can boost that sense of responsibility by assigning yourself specific tasks to accomplish. For example, you could put yourself in charge of finding classes, grocery shopping, scheduling doctor appointments, or choosing a cord blood bank.
Most importantly: know you’re not alone!
Whatever you’re going through, it’s generally because your partner is experiencing the same thing—often to a more severe degree. Knowing that the two of you are feeling pregnancy symptoms together can boost empathy and bring you closer together. Just remember to take healthy steps to try to alleviate pregnancy symptoms together.