Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Couvade syndrome: Is sympathetic pregnancy real?

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

Updated: 03-18-2011

Answer

Couvade syndrome is a term used to describe 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 (sympathetic pregnancy) is 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 may include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, appetite changes, respiratory problems, toothaches, leg cramps, backaches, and urinary or genital irritations. Psychological symptoms that may be related to Couvade syndrome 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.

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