Couvade Syndrome During Pregnancy: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

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Couvade syndrome is a condition that affects the pregnant woman’s partner. He/she experiences symptoms similar to that of pregnancy such as nausea, bloating, leg cramps, abdominal pain, backaches, depression, and anxiety. While this phenomenon was first observed in the nineteenth century, it is still not recognized as a psychological condition or disease. It is a common condition and men from all over the world experience it.

What is couvade syndrome?

Couvade syndrome is a condition in which the partner of a pregnant woman experiences pregnancy-like symptoms. It is also known as a male sympathetic pregnancy or pregnant dad syndrome. According to research, it is a relatively common phenomenon. However, it is not recognized as an official medical or psychological issue.

couvade syndrome

Causes of couvade syndrome in men

Attachment

The attachment theory posits that men who are more involved in preparation for the parental role like taking ante-natal classes are more susceptible to the symptoms. This means that a man’s closeness to the fetus is the cause of the symptoms. By participating more in pregnancy-related activities, men feel closed to the unborn child and begin to identify with the paternal role. A study showed that there was a modest correlation between paternal-fetal involvement. Like in the form of feeling the child kick with physical symptoms of the syndrome such as exhaustion, difficulty in sleeping, indigestion, stomach upsets, constipation, and changes in appetite. The study concluded that these symptoms were a reflection of the level of a man’s attachment to the unborn baby and the involvement in the pregnancy.

Hormonal changes    

The attack of hormones provides a satisfactory explanation. Couvade syndrome has been shown to have a correlation with hormones but there is no definitive research to prove this. A study showed that during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, there was a significant increase in the levels of prolactin and estrogen in men. Also, observed low levels of testosterone and cortisol. These hormone changes were associated with paternal behavior. Also physical symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and changes in appetite.

Somatization

Somatic symptoms are the physical symptoms that are caused due to emotional distress. Expectant parents will often feel stress and anxiety about the child’s birth. They become aware of the adult role in society and it can have an impact on their psychological health. These feelings can cause somatic symptoms that are similar to those of pregnancy. These physical symptoms are believed to be manifestations of the psychological problems that they are facing as the body begins to deal with them unconsciously.

Psychosocial causes    

The psychoanalytical theory posits that couvade syndrome arises out of men’s jealousy and envy of the woman’s ability to procreate. It is also believed by some that expectant fathers may view the unborn child as a rival for maternal love as attention will be diverted from them because of the child. It is also believed that a partner may experience unpleasant symptoms because of guilt over the partner’s pregnancy.

Symptoms of couvade syndrome

Psychological symptoms    

  • Difficulty sleeping and changes in sleep patterns
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Reduced libido
  • Physical symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Bloating
  • Respiratory problems
  • Toothaches
  • Leg cramps
  • Back pain or cramping
  • Urinary or genital irritation

Difference between sympathetic and phantom pregnancy

Phantom pregnancy, also known as pseudocyesis is often confused with couvade syndrome. However, pseudocyesis is a recognized mental disorder and has been classified as a somatic symptom disorder in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Research has shown that this condition results from a strong desire to become pregnant and is thus commonly observed to occur in couples experiencing infertility. Women affected by this condition become convinced that are pregnant, even when are not. They may tend to show pregnancy-related symptoms like light or no periods, swollen breasts and stomach, feeling fetal movement, morning sickness, and sometimes even labor pains at the estimated due date.

Research couvade syndrome

There is no definitive research to make out the existence, causes, and treatment of couvade syndrome. Also, no sufficient research to indicate why some men are more susceptible to couvade than others. However, some experts believe that men whose partners have experienced it. Some studies have shown that couvade syndrome may be linked to culture as it is more prevalent in certain areas like Australia and Poland. There is also very little research on couvade syndrome among LGBTQ couples. The prospects of future research on couvade seem fairly low. It is often not considered a serious issue and people experiencing the condition often fail even to notice it or associate it with the pregnancy.

Treatment

Since the couvade syndrome is not serious or even consistent and is temporary, there is no specific treatment. However, numerous strategies can aid with the alleviation of these symptoms. Men can try calming approaches like meditation, yoga, or therapy that will make them feel more relaxed. This can also aid in resolving other issues that have been exacerbated by anxiety and stress. There are also medicines and herbal remedies that can help treat physical symptoms like nausea and labor pains. The symptoms usually disappear after pregnancy.

Conclusion

Couvade syndrome is a common condition and it is perfectly normal to seek help from a doctor. Don’t ignore symptoms, as it is essential to take care of the health when expecting a baby. Ensure sufficient rest, stick to a balanced diet, avoid consuming drugs and alcohol, exercise regularly, and engage in stress-relief techniques.

References

the couvade syndrome – pubmed (nih.gov)

blog therapy, therapy, therapy blog, blogging therapy, therapy,.. (goodtherapy.org)

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