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

Answers from Todd B. Nippoldt, M.D.

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

Symptoms reported to be associated with Couvade syndrome vary widely 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 syndrome is real or not, what's certain is that becoming a new dad can be exciting, emotional and stressful. If you're a man whose partner is pregnant, take steps to manage stress and prepare for fatherhood. 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 fatherhood.

Jan. 15, 2014 See more Expert Answers