Is That Possible?

Guys can't get pregnant -- right? While that's true, sometimes they might feel pregnant. Strange as it may seem, some fathers-to-be experience pregnancy symptoms like nausea, indigestion, appetite changes, weight gain, constipation, headaches and those crazy mood swings.

pregnant woman and husband

Called couvade or couvade syndrome (from the French word couver, meaning "to hatch"), these are essentially "sympathetic pregnancy" symptoms that can seem very real. Some studies suggest that about 20 percent of expectant fathers experience some degree of couvade -- and other researchers report an even higher percentage. What causes it?

Explanations vary, but there is not much evidence-based information about it yet. Some theories suggest that couvade results from the father's desire (conscious or unconscious) to identify with his mate, feelings of jealousy or displacement, fears of facing parenthood and providing for a family... or just plain stress. "Because a couple may experience lifestyle changes together, the cravings and increased appetite of a pregnant wife may pave the way for her husband's weight gain, heartburn and indigestion," says an article in Scientific American Mind (June/July 2006). The story goes on to add, "Changes in sexual activity, shifts in social priorities, time off work, or the arrival of a mother-in-law for a potentially stressful extended visit may also contribute." The good news is that, according to one study, men experiencing couvade scored higher on scales measuring paternal-role preparation than men not experiencing those symptoms. (Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology Neonatal Nursing, 1989 Nov/Dec;18(6).) Symptoms of couvade typically appear toward the end of the first trimester and again near to term. Rest assured: Only one of you will actually deliver, and birth is the ultimate "cure" for couvade. Here's another article that may be helpful: "Pregnant" dads?


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