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What is Couvade Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment?

Couvades syndrome is a condition in which the male partner of a pregnant female starts experiencing the symptoms of pregnancy. The cause of this syndrome is not known but there are a few theories supporting it.

What is Couvade syndrome?

Couvades syndrome is known as synthetic pregnancy. The word covee is a French word that means to brood or to hatch.(1)

Burnett Tylor, an anthropologist, observed in primitive community, men would mimic their partner’s pain during labor or even breastfeeding after birth. He attributed these symptoms to empathy or compathy, which could be their physical response to other’s distress.

The partner with Couvades syndrome would not even know, what they are experiencing is psychosomatic or not.

Couvades syndrome is not a disease or any psychological condition, but just a common phenomenon. It has not been recognized as any medical or mental health issue.

What Causes Couvade Syndrome?

The cause of Couvade Syndrome this is not known but many theories exist to support its occurrence.

  1. The occurrence of the Couvade Syndrome symptoms could be related to physical and psychological responses to social situations and culture.
  2. Researchers relate it to empathy to partner’s pregnancy which could be a cause of it.
  3. Anxiety can also be a factor for Couvade Syndrome. The higher the anxiety, the more are the symptoms of this syndrome.(1) First pregnancy can also be a contribution to the stress and anxiety that could lead to symptoms of couvade syndrome.

Studies show a link between the developments of Couvade syndrome and culture.(2) The instance of the syndrome varies with geographical location. It is found to be more prevalent in Australia (31%), the United Kingdom (25%), and Poland (72%).

Another study shows couples who have experienced infertility for some time could have Couvade syndrome.(3) In the study, 36 men were examined and 6 men were found experiencing symptoms of their partner’s pregnancy.

Symptoms of Couvade syndrome

The Couvade syndrome symptoms are found to be worse in the first trimester, better in the second trimester, and again worse in the third trimester.

Weight gain, food cravings, and other signs of pregnancy, all the symptoms are experienced by a person with Couvade syndrome.

There is a difference between Couvade pregnancy and delusional pregnancy. In Couvade syndrome the person may feel pregnant but knows that he is not pregnant(1)

The psychological symptoms of Couvade syndrome are as follows:

  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression
  • Decreased desire for sex or loss of libido
  • Restlessness

Physical symptoms of Couvade syndrome may be:

Toothache is another common symptom presented by people with Couvades syndrome. If the toothache is present along with the other symptoms mentioned above and the man has a pregnant partner, Couvade syndrome is a cause.(4)

The symptoms associated with pregnancy start with the first trimester. The symptoms experienced are morning sickness and exhaustion, which are not so joyful symptoms.

The symptoms subside during the second trimester, which happens in the pregnancy as well. It can be termed as a honeymoon period for the couple.

The symptoms return and worsen in the third trimester as the birth nears. The person may experience ills and discomforts as the body prepares for birth.

Treatment for Couvade syndrome

There is no treatment for Couvade syndrome. The symptoms subside and go away with the birth of the child or soon after.

You can reach out for a doctor’s help but the symptoms will go only after the pregnancy is over.

Couvade syndrome symptoms heighten with anxiety. Getting extra rest, eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and drugs, exercising regularly, and engaging in stress-relieving activities can prove to be of help in keeping calm and alleviating the symptoms.

Pregnancy is full of anticipation and anxiety for both the partners. Remember, you are not alone. If struggling with feelings about parenthood or experiencing symptoms, do not worry. Meet a trained therapist who can help you work through them.

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 16, 2020

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