Couvade syndrome is a condition in which a man experiences some symptoms and behaviour similar to their expecting partner. These symptoms include minor weight gain, morning nausea, food cravings, back pains and disturbed sleep patterns. From the extra mouth to feed to not understanding the changes happening in their wives’ bodies, pregnancy can be trying times for men, too.

As such, men do suffer sympathy pains during pregnancy. These signs signify an empathetic identification with a pregnant partner and the unborn child. Couvade symptoms follow a chronological order, starting with the first three months of pregnancy, before temporarily disappearing and then re-appearing in the final three months. The symptoms can also extend into the period after the baby is born.

A range of theories that have been proposed to explain Couvade syndrome include:

Psychoanalytical theories: It explains that the syndrome evolves from the man’s envy of the woman’s procreativity. The theory also suggests that for the man, the pregnancy catalyses the emergence of ambivalence and the resurgence of oedipal conflicts. Another theory suggests that expectant fathers may sometimes view the unborn child as a rival for maternal attention.

Psychosocial theories: It focuses on a marginalisation of men during a woman’s gestation and childbirth, especially among men who are having their first child. The fact that men can’t actually give birth or experience delivery directly can direct men to an ancillary role where they feel useless. To solve this ancillary status during gestation and childbirth, the man diverts attention from the woman to himself through a display of Couvade syndrome.

Influence from hormones: The syndrome also appears to show a relationship with hormones in that there is a significant increase in men’s levels of testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol. These hormonal changes are associated with the display of paternal behaviours as well as Couvade symptoms of fatigue, appetite changes and weight gWain.

Emotional attachment: The attachment theory proposes that the man’s closeness to the foetus gives rise to the syndrome. There is a correlation between more paternal-foetal involvement and attachment with the incidence of six physical symptoms of the syndrome. These include feeling more tired, sleeping difficulties, indigestion, stomach upsets, appetite changes and constipation. Researchers conclude that men’s symptoms are as a result of their level of attachment to the unborn child and involvement in the pregnancy.

Remedy for Couvade Syndrome

Many people may not be aware of the existence of Couvade syndrome and thus those who suffer from the condition may not seek medical help. Those suffering from Couvade are advised to visit a therapist. The syndrome cure requires both psychological attention as well as medical treatment.

Medical treatment is essential for the person who experiences hormonal changes. With this syndrome, some hormones may lead to weight gain. Since the common causes of the syndrome include stress, anxiety, empathy and the need to show concern for the pregnant friend, relative or partner, psychological attention will help to deal with these.

Interaction with other men who are fathers may also help. Anxiety and stress may get relieved when you know that other men have made it through.

Treatment for the syndrome may also involve gentle exercise, resting and eating a balanced diet. Researchers have also found out that the syndrome is well connected to toothache. More cases of toothache have been noted among expectant fathers. If a patient complains from unexplained toothache and has a pregnant partner, the possibility of Couvade syndrome is highly considered.