What can you tell me about couvade? Can men really experience sympathetic pregnancy symptoms?

Answers from Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

Sympathetic pregnancy (couvade) describes a situation in which otherwise healthy men — whose partners are expecting babies — experience pregnancy-related symptoms. While some research suggests that couvade might be common, it isn't a recognized mental illness or disease. Further studies are needed to determine whether couvade is a physical condition with psychological causes.

Symptoms reported to be associated with couvade vary and typically occur only during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy.

  • Physical symptoms. These symptoms might include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, appetite changes, respiratory problems, toothaches, leg cramps, backaches, and urinary or genital irritations.
  • Psychological symptoms. These symptoms might include changes in sleeping patterns, anxiety, depression, reduced libido and restlessness.

Whether couvade is real or not, what's certain is that becoming a new parent can be exciting, emotional and stressful. If your partner is pregnant, take steps to manage stress and prepare for parenthood. Attend prenatal classes. Seek out advice and encouragement from friends and family. Talk to your partner. Understanding and planning for the challenges ahead can help ease your transition into parenthood.

Aug. 25, 2016 See more Expert Answers