Everything You Need to Know About Couvade Syndrome

Have you ever heard of Couvade syndrome? If you haven’t, you may know it by its more familiar moniker, sympathetic pregnancy. First noted in 1865 by anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor, this condition is actually much more common than you might think.

Couvade syndrome comes from the French “couvee”, which means “to hatch.” It happens when fathers-to-be who are otherwise healthy begin experiencing pregnancy-related symptoms. The symptoms of Couvade are vague and varied, and can include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain or bloating, leg cramps, backaches, breathing issues, weight gain or loss, and urinary or genital irritation. About 40 percent of men with Couvade syndrome can even experience tooth pain. Dads with Couvade may experience psychological symptoms like reduced libido, restlessness, anxiety, or depression as well. Sometimes, men with Couvade syndrome can experience such a high level of stress that they may even risk a mini-stroke.

Interestingly, even though it’s been around a long time and affects a large number of people, Couvade syndrome is not an official diagnosis. It’s not considered a disease or even a psychological condition. So, why does it happen to so many men? And how many men does it actually affect?

Estimates of how many men are affected are imprecise. Part of the reason for this is that this syndrome has been studied more by anthropologists and sociologists than the medical community. What we do know is that your likelihood of developing Couvade syndrome varies depending on your culture, how involved you are with your partner’s pregnancy, and how stressful the entire situation is for you. It’s also more likely to happen when a couple has experienced infertility or pregnancy loss. When it occurs, Couvade syndrome typically kicks in during the first trimester, eases during the second, and reoccurs during the third, much like a woman’s pregnancy symptoms. It doesn’t necessarily go away after childbirth, however. Many men with this syndrome experience postpartum depression, probably because they’re living through similar stressors to their partners, including lack of sleep, a massive sense of responsibility, and overall disruption to their lives.

If you or your partner are experiencing Couvade syndrome, what can you do? The most important thing is to keep the communication flowing. While this syndrome is ill-defined, it is fairly common, and knowing that can alleviate some of the stress. If the symptoms are particularly concerning, seek medical care. Otherwise, just do your best to take care of each other and make sure both partners are getting plenty of rest, eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress.

At the Center for Vasectomy Reversal, we love helping people start families with healthy pregnancies. We pride ourselves on helping men improve their fertility through uncompromising, concierge-level patient care. Under the direction of Dr. Joshua Green, our team provides state-of-the-art treatment for men who need a reversal of their vasectomy or have other fertility concerns. To learn more, contact us through our website or call 941-894-6428.