Sure, you’re the one who has to carry the baby for nine months and suffer nausea and swollen feet, but did you know that father-to-be can experience pregnancy symptoms, too?
One dad, Jeff Ng, 38, recalls having back pain along with his wife as her due date neared. “It was bizarre. I told myself that it was probably psychological, but nope, the pains were definitely there.”
So, are such complaints just a case of copycat, or does the husband want a share of the attention his wife is enjoying? Unlikely, since Couvade syndrome ― also known as sympathetic pregnancy ― is an actual condition.
The word “couvade” is derived from an obsolete French word meaning “to hatch, sit on eggs”. Physical symptoms include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, appetite changes, respiratory problems, toothaches, leg cramps, backaches, and urinary or genital irritations. Psychological issues might include changes in sleeping patterns, anxiety, depression, reduced libido and restlessness.
Some studies say that stress (from financial worries or possible health concerns) is a possible cause, while others attribute this condition to empathy for what the man’s wife is going through.
Physical symptoms include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, appetite changes, leg cramps, backaches, and urinary or genital irritations.
SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, a consultant obstetrician, gynaecologist and urogynaecologist, says that no one knows the real cause. Although he has encountered this condition every now and then, it’s rare ― he has seen it in just 1 per cent of his patients, who report subtle, mild symptoms. No one knows whether the cause is psychological or physiological, although several small studies have shown hormonal changes ― such as prolactin and testosterone levels ― in the man.
Benjamin Sng, 43, recalled battling nausea when his wife, Lily Tan, 36, was pregnant with their son.
“It happened twice, very early on in the pregnancy, maybe at 8 to 10 weeks. One time, we were watching a movie and having popcorn, and I just felt so awful, I had to leave the cinema and throw up.”
His amused wife chortles, “The funny thing is I hardly had morning sickness – maybe I just transferred it to him!”
In another incident, Dr Chong recalls that a husband had to use his wife’s Entonox gas to relieve the “labour pain” he thought he was experiencing when his wife was going to deliver.
Psychotherapy might help men who experience psychological symptoms. However, Dr Chong adds, “Unfortunately, we usually can’t pinpoint the cause ― thankfully, the symptoms are usually not severe.”