While their partner is pregnant, some fathers experience symptoms associated with pregnancy. For example, they have special food cravings or gain weight. These future dads experience these symptoms of empathy in reaction to their partner’s pregnancy. This is what we call the “couvade”.
This syndrome, which is not a disease, is more common than we think. In The United States, the phenomenon would affect 25 to 52 % of fathers, especially those who are expecting a first baby. However, men would tend not to talk about these symptoms.
The syndrome consists of a wide variety of physical and psychological symptoms felt by man during the pregnancy of his partner. Usually, symptoms appear in the first quarter, disappear mostly in the 2th quarter and come back more intensely in the 3th quarter to disappear often at the birth of the baby or shortly after.
The most common physical symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach burns, change of appetite, tooth pain, weight gain, eating cravings, diarrhea and even abdominal pain. However, abdominal pain and diarrhea are not necessarily symptoms of couvade.
Some future fathers may also experience symptoms that affect their psychological well-being. For example, they may experience mood swings, nervousness, irritability and concentration problems.
Several theories try to explain the phenomenon of couvade.
The could be a hormonal reaction. According to some studies, this syndrome is related to a decrease in blood. In addition, men who suddenly produce more prolactin, an important hormone during pregnancy and breastfeeding, are more likely to experience such symptoms. After the birth of the child, these fathers also have a stronger emotional reaction to their baby’s signals.
The Couvade could express a will of the father to get physically involved in the pregnancy of his partner. By the way, in some traditional societies, the transition from young man to father is marked by a ritual of couvade.
For some men, this would be a way to express their anxiety and fears about the health of the baby, their anguish of having to deal with a new member in the family or the fear of not knowing how to take care of the child at birth. On the other hand, men who feel more easily of distress in front of the negative emotions of others would be more likely to be affected by the couvade.
The would be a reaction to the transition to the role of father. It would allow the father to adjust to the emotions associated with his new role. Men who have had prenatal classes are more often affected by the. This syndrome could therefore manifest itself due to the father’s commitment during the pregnancy of his spouse and his preparation for his role as a father.
The could also be explained by the impression of being put away in a period when attention is mainly paid to the mother. Men who experience symptoms of couvade will recognize the ability of their spouse to carry a child. They may also fear losing their place with their partner.
If the mother takes care of the kitchen, her growing cravings and food needs could cause a change in the family’s diet. This could contribute to the weight of the future dad and his gastrointestinal discomfort.
What to do?
Several strategies can be put in place to help the future father to live this passage better.
Promote good living habits. For example, limit foods that are too fat or too sweet, avoid snacking, have a diverse diet, drink enough water, do physical activity and take some time to rest.
Talk to your wife about his emotions and consult various resources to reassure her concerns. Sharing his experience of future dad with other fathers can also help.
Get involved as much as possible in pregnancy to avoid feeling excluded. The Future Father can participate in prenatal classes, accompany his spouse to medical appointments and ultrasound, take care of administrative procedures for delivery, prepare the nursery, etc.
Caress your wife’s belly and talk to the baby regularly. This exercise will make it possible to get in touch and strengthen his connection with the baby.
If you have symptoms of couvade, talk to your doctor too. This phenomenon can raise questions within your couple that deserve to be answered. Each person reacts differently to stress, and these symptoms may indicate that you need the help of a health professional so that your spouse’s pregnancy takes place in the best possible well-being.
Many future fathers may experience pregnancy symptoms themselves.
Symptoms Can be both physical and psychological.
The could be due to hormonal changes, but also to the transition of man to his new role as a father.
The Father who is experiencing symptoms of couvade should discuss it with his spouse or doctor, if necessary.