It does not happen often but some men also get sympathetic symptoms of pregnancy, when their wives are pregnant. It is almost as though they are the ones pregnant. It can make a woman feel cheated that her husband was the one having all the cravings and nausea, when she was the one carrying the baby. Talk about a case of using medication for someone else’s headache.
I recall a neighbor who while I was growing up used to be the butt of jokes whenever his wife was pregnant. If he so much as spat like twice in the presence of his buddies, it was interpreted as an announcement that they were pregnant again and the good natured ribbing would start. The fact that he owned a tailoring outfit in the front of his house did not help matters; his friends congregated there to discuss his symptoms and what was different from the last time. His neighbours would look in on him as they go out, to check if he was not sleeping and wake him up, if he was.
On the other hand, his wife was almost always fine. Yes, she often needed a spit cup during her first trimester and slept a lot, but if you were to see both of them during that first trimester, you would think that it was the man, who was pregnant with his ashen looks and sunken eyes. It was weird that he was the one often experiencing the worst symptoms of nausea and tiredness, while his wife barely felt it.
But, they both always gained weight. They both had the cravings; their jaws often worked 24/7. The amount of snacks they ate was astonishing. During the nine month journey, this man had regular customers who came to supply him his favourite snacks every day and that were often whatever fruit was in season. Another woman, Janet told the story of how her husband became paranoid about germs and cleanliness, when she was pregnant with their first child. He wanted everything clean and free from germs. He was the one who drew up a list of items that were germ-ridden in their house and made plans to replace them.
Janet’s husband wanted to practically change everything in their house. He wanted to change everything that was old and could be harbouring germs. He went on shopping sprees, without his wife and came home with more cleaning products than was necessary. His wish list included all new house wares, new carpet for the entire house, and a new “cleaner” car. In the end, he got his carpeting and the car. But when his symptoms went away after the birth of their son, his wallet and Janet drew a sigh of relief!
But Ada did not find it funny, when her husband had more pregnancy symptoms than she did. She was nursing him, instead of being nursed by him as he was always as sick as a dog in the mornings and found it hard to keep anything down before 12 noon. She had to change the menu for his sake, to stuff that were easier on his stomach but not to her liking. Breakfast became a thing of the past for the first trimester. No one was eating it anyway; they both snacked and drank tea, at least before he had to go to work.
Every one wondered what was wrong with him and no one understood that he was having sympathetic pregnancy symptoms, because his wife was pregnant. In fact they both thought, he had gotten a bug and was coming down with it at first but when they got to the hospitals, and the doctor checked him out. His symptoms were classic pregnancy ones. Ada was surprised that she was the one carrying the baby but it was her husband, who was experiencing the symptoms. Instead of being the one to be taken care of, she was the one caring for her husband as his body was ravaged with pregnancy symptoms that he was not carrying.
His doctor too was surprised. It had been a while since he saw such a case and they gave him some medication for his symptoms. But his wife never allowed him forget it; that he, a macho man would come down with pregnancy symptoms, to the extent of missing work. When his colleagues at work called, he told them, he was feeling poorly, of course, not what the doctor had said was happening to him. It caused his wife a lot of mirth now but she is happy that they are in the second trimester, which means that he is very healthy, albeit hungrier but his mood was fine.
She is however dreading the third trimester and even labour, should her husband still go ahead to exhibit more of the pregnancy symptoms than she who was carrying the baby.
This condition is termed the Couvade syndrome and doctors say, it is not only partners of the pregnant woman who can suffer the syndrome; sometimes, a very close friend or relative has symptoms that uncannily mimic pregnancy.The likely suspects are stress and empathy. According to medical experts, stress releases chemicals in the body that can manifest as sympathetic pregnancy. And let’s face it, with financial worries; health concerns, and good old-fashioned cold feet, pregnancy is often stressful for both parties. Add a little empathy to the mix, and you have a perfect recipe for Couvade.
Although men may not talk about it much, these symptoms are not uncommon. In fact, there are certain situations which can bring on the Couvade syndrome. Couples who have dealt with infertility or pregnancy loss, for example, are particularly susceptible to experiencing Couvade syndrome. A typical case would be that of an empathic husband who gave his wife hormone injections during the conception process. If she had some bleeding during pregnancy, he might have some cramping, which is a perfect example of Couvade symptoms at work.
So, the next time, a new dad to-be seems a little bit worn out, show some love, because he is actually experiencing symptoms as his pregnant wife.
Food for thought!
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