Though I’ve always heard about men experiencing pregnancy symptoms when their wives get pregnant, I’ve never actually heard of anyone I know experiencing a sympathetic pregnancy. I thought that maybe it doesn’t happen that often and only a few men ever experience this phenomenon known as Couvade. However, through a bit of research I was able to find out that between 20-80% of expecting fathers in modern western populations develop at least a few of the symptoms when their wives become pregnant.
What Is Couvade?
Couvade is the technical term for sympathetic pregnancy and it’s actually a French word for “to hatch” which is often translated into “to brood”. When men experience Couvade, they show some typical signs of pregnancy that women often develop such as:
It’s also been discovered that some men are more likely to experience Couvade than others. The men who are most likely to go through sympathetic pregnancies have typically struggled with infertility or their wives have struggled with infertility, or they were adopted.
What Cases Couvade?
Interestingly enough, scientists aren’t sure what causes the symptoms of sympathetic pregnancies, nor do they understand why some men are more likely to develop the symptoms. Popular hypotheses have been that partners are envious of what their partners get to do. They get to conceive the child and then carry it around for none months. This automatically makes them able to get to know the child on a deeper level in the beginning. Mom's partner will often have to wait until the child is born to form a deeper bond, though that’s not always true.
Scientists and physicians also speculate that some men can be jealous of the attention their wives get without even realizing it, so their bodies start mimicking the symptoms of pregnancy in order to transfer some of the attention to them.
Since about 2000, scientists have been researching men’s levels of testosterone and its relationship to stable relationships in order to find some answers about what causes Couvade. It has been found consistently that men in stable relationships have lower levels of testosterone, but scientists are unsure if the relationship lowers the testosterone, or if men with lower levels of testosterone are more prone to seek out stable and lasting relationships.
The closest researchers have come to identifying what causes Couvade is paternal prolactin, which has been positively identified with sympathetic pregnancy symptoms as well as emotional responses to infant stimuli.
Source: American. (2004, June 28). Why do some men experience pregnancy symptoms such as vomiting and nausea when their wives are pregnant?: Scientific American. Scientific American.