Dad's Who Feel Pregnant? A Look at the Couvade Syndrome

October 18, 2016

Are you an expecting dad? Has anyone mentioned that you look like you’re ready to deliver? Anyone ask how many months you are? Do you have morning sickness? While walking with your wife, does anyone point to your stomach and ask whether it’s a boy or a girl?

That bulging stomach and pregnancy symptoms you may experience doesn’t mean that you’re crazy. On the contrary, you’re probably one of the few men who may be experiencing Couvade Syndrome, a condition where men experience noticeable symptoms associated with pregnancy.

The Man Who Thought he was Pregnant

In the video above a father, Harry Ashby, exhibited symptoms associated with couvade and shared his experience saying “At first, morning sickness, obviously the weight gain… my boobs were tender, mood swings… I kind of ignored it at first, but when it kept happening, that’s when we researched it and I found out I had a sympathetic pregnancy.”

What Is the Couvade Syndrome?

It’s a condition in which some fathers mimic their partner’s pregnancy symptoms, this includes nausea, weight gain, and insomnia.

In the documentary on the couvade syndrome, Dr. Arthur Brennan an expert on male sympathy pregnancy, explained the syndrome saying,

“Couvade syndrome comprises physical and psychological symptoms, pregnancy rate symptoms in men… physical symptoms can include things like appetite cravings, the most interesting symptom… is an abdominal swelling during the woman’s pregnancy. The syndrome is involuntary and it occurs during the first trimester of the pregnancy and then dissipates during the second trimester and then reoccurs again with greater severity in the third trimester.”

One of Dr. Brennan’s patients, discussed his experience with the syndrome, saying,

“I’m a house father to three girls, I’m also trained in psychotherapy, I learned my wife was pregnant… I was very happy, I was also stunned because it was quite a life changing event. I knew my life would never be the same again. I first experienced the symptoms when my wife was pregnant with our first baby, my wife is a doctor, she’s always screening and watching. She was the one who actually diagnosed me. The first symptom and the most powerful one was vomiting in the morning and after lunch, almost every day for about two or three months. My wife knew there was something going on… There was no reason why I should be sick. The other symptoms were together with that. Backache, insomnia and I was eating for two, and the final symptom which was the most revealing was cravings.

So Why Do Men Get It?

Scientists have noted many physical changes that fathers experience during pregnancy. Jeremy Adam Smith, author of The Daddy Shift, explained recent discoveries saying in the video above,

“Over the past 20 years, scientists have made new discoveries about the ways men’s bodies change when they become fathers, for example, men lose testosterone and they gain prolactin, which is a hormone associated with breastfeeding, as well as cortisol, which is a stress formula that helps new mothers pay attention to a baby’s needs. So in many, many ways, the bodies of mothers and fathers converge as they become parents.”

Other medical experts believe that when a male partner mimics that his female partner has in pregnancy, it is related to stress or empathy. Couples who’ve had difficulty with pregnancy in the past, are more likely to exhibit symptoms related to couvade syndrome.

Earlier in this article, we provided the account of Harry Ashby who experienced couvade symptoms. He later explained that he felt a tremendous amount of stress due to a failure of a previous attempt at pregnancy.

There are other experts who believe that couvade is the reaction that fathers have when they don’t feel accepted or needed during pregnancy. While other experts believe that depressed dads eat to comfort themselves, putting on more weight on in the process.

In addition, men who engage in prenatal and antenatal classes are more likely to be affected by the syndrome. Why? The attachment and closeness to his female partner have increased a rise in the syndrome.

The sympathetic pregnancy can also be the result of hormonal changes. The men who experienced couvade, they had lower testosterone and higher levels of prolactin and estrogen during different stages of the pregnancy.

Could Jealousy be the Cause?

Other experts attribute couvade to a form of rivalry or jealousy. Men often experience forms of jealousy during childbirth. Why? They’re no longer the focus when it comes to the relationship or they just feel neglected. In addition, father’s don’t have physical markers associated with pregnancy, some men have a psychological fallout and the syndrome is an involuntary reaction to the woman’s condition.

Is there Treatment for Couvade Syndrome?

Since couvade is primarily a psychological syndrome, fathers are encouraged to maintain good health and consult a physician in extreme cases.


Despite the physical and psychological changes that may manifest, they won’t be as severe as those of the female partner and more than likely, they’ll subside once the mother delivers the child. Relax, Dad. You’re bonding with your partner which is a good thing.

Handpicked Related Articles

Let Us Guide You Through The Process of Finding a Nanny or Nanny Job is Canada’s largest and most trusted online service for finding nannies and babysitters. We have been recognized by Today’s Parent, CanadaAM, the Globe & Mail, Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living Magazine, and many reputable parenting websites and publications across Canada.

Contact Us

Although we may be a self-serve nanny service, we are still very much devoted to helping families and caregivers succeed in their search for a match through our site. Our customer support team is always here and happy to offer any advice to our potential and existing customers.

Need a Nanny?

Need a Nanny Job?

Canadian Nanny Payroll and Tax Service powered by Heartpayroll