Studies show that 50 percent of men seek treatment for their “sympathetic pregnancies.”
Couvade, a derivative of the Breton verb couver—to incubate—is a legitimate syndrome in which your significant other, whose empathy you may usually appreciate, complains of the same or similar symptoms to you. Of course, he doesn’t have the actual pregnancy excuse, so it might be hard to fully sympathize with him in the throes (or throwing up) of your own experience.
Prodding aside, there are references dating back to 60 BCE of fathers being prescribed bed rest because they had signs mimicking labor—the most common consensus of symptoms with today’s modern father being weight gain, cravings, flatulence, toothaches, and even measurable hormone changes.
Dads have a bigger role from conception through birth than we typically credit them with.
Of course we know that a mother’s diet affects her baby, but new research links dad’s diet and lifestyle habits to baby’s long-term health as well. The study of epigenetics (stuff in our environmental that switches genes on and off) is an ever-evolving field, but more and more evidence shows how what dad eats, and what chemicals he may be exposed to, prompts changes in his genes, and subsequently his child health.
Although, we need a lot more research to fully understand the connection between fathers-to-be and a child’s health picture, it’s evident enough that dad’s choices live on in their children. And since dad is half of the equation, it makes sense that his influences may become baby’s. And perhaps it follows that he’s entitled to some of the symptoms of pregnancy too!
So, how does one treat this medical curiosity?
It’s never to late to modify habits and start to regain health! So, men planning to become dad’s should prepare their bodies in much the same way a mother-to-be would—building in moderate exercise, nutrition and lifestyle habits to offset their couvade symptoms, and help their kids inherit their optimal genetic legacy.
The best treatment for couvade itself is simply to use this as an opportunity to be gentle with each other. You’re both adjusting to this major life change, which can trigger all sorts of reactions (physical and otherwise). Just as a woman’s pregnancy symptoms usually dissipate with birth, so do dad’s. Conveniently, men rarely experience the actual birth pains!
Kudos to the men of couvade—they’re as participatory as it comes.