Couvade syndrome, also called sympathetic pregnancy or male pregnancy symptoms, is something that many men experience during the course of their mate’s pregnancy. While many people scoff at the notion of a man experiencing pregnancy-like symptoms, I can assure you that couvade syndrome is no laughing matter. This is something that many men experience, myself included, and it is well documented in scientific literature.
What is Couvade Syndrome?
Couvade syndrome is a condition in which men begin to experience abnormal symptoms that can mirror the symptoms of their pregnant mate. I experienced a mild case of couvade syndrome during my wife’s first pregnancy, but her second pregnancy has caused intense pregnancy-related symptoms in both of us.
Couvade syndrome is more common than most people think. In fact, one study found that 72% of expecting fathers suffered from at least one symptom of couvade syndrome. 
Couvade Syndrome Signs and Symptoms
What are the symptoms of couvade syndrome? My symptoms during my wife’s first pregnancy were manageable. I had a strong metallic taste in my mouth that lasted for at least a month. I also had an increase in food sensitives and some fatigue, but that was about it.
Fast forward to this pregnancy, and my symptoms have been much worse.
- I first experienced an increase in appetite and food cravings. I would be scrounging around in the cabinets trying to find a constant supply of snacks. I definitely gained some weight during this phase.
- My nipples became sore, as if I were hitting puberty all over again. In fact, I’ve read several reports of men who reported breast growth due to couvade syndrome. (Thankfully, my cup size never changed…)
- I experienced debilitating exhaustion that lasted around two months. I would literally get up, get out of bed, and then I’d be like, “Yeah, I’m not going to be very productive today,” and I’d literally drag through the day. I also took frequent naps during the first trimester, and I never take naps! This not only interfered with daily life, but it also caused me to skip working out for the first 15 weeks of my wife’s pregnancy.
- My food sensitivities went crazy after a few weeks. Suddenly, I became sensitive or allergic to anything other than white rice, turkey, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and sweet potatoes. I have literally been surviving on that for about a month and a half now, and I’ve lost around 8 pounds.
- I’ve had diarrhea, gas, and constant bloating. I literally look pregnant because my stomach is constantly bloated and gassy. It’s crazy.
- I had nausea and headaches to the point of almost dry heaving in the toilet. Thankfully, I never threw up, but I came close.
- I had insomnia. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and it would take me 2-3 hours to fall back asleep.
- I experienced horrible mood swings. I felt hopeless. I felt irritable. I just wanted it to stop. I don’t like feeling pregnant.
- My entire body ached for weeks. I felt like an 80-year-old man with arthritis or something. It was horrible.
Those were my main symptoms, but they have been intense this time around. The interesting thing is that they often sync up with Nurse Sarah’s pregnancy symptoms. We’d be feeling the same symptoms and going through the same thing. It’s weird.
In fact, my couvade symptoms got so bad that I began researching this online, and I was stunned to read about some of the other symptoms that men experience during their wife’s pregnancy.
I’ve read studies that indicated that some men experienced the following:
- swelling in their hands and feet
- labor pains or contractions (during delivery)
- postpartum depression
- and more
At this point, I’m wondering if I’ll need an epidural…
What Causes Couvade Syndrome?
What causes couvade syndrome? Researchers aren’t entirely sure, but they speculate that it could be partly due to changes in hormone levels for men. For example, researchers have performed studies that indicated that expectant fathers experienced a drop in testosterone and cortisol levels, and an increase in estradiol.
Some researchers have theorized that it’s a psychosomatic thing – like it’s all in your head all due to stress or difficulty in coming to terms with being a father. That’s not true in my case. There is something physiological going on. My body somehow responds to hormones or pheromones that my wife’s body is producing, and it causes my body to experience similar symptoms.
Tips for Men Dealing with Couvade Syndrome
If you’re a man dealing with couvade syndrome, let me give you some tips on how to deal with this.
- First, you’re probably going to feel a lot better after the first trimester ends. Around week 13 or 14, my wife and I started to get our energy back and feel a lot better. We still struggle with some symptoms from time to time, but they aren’t as severe.
- If you start noticing extreme stomach cramps or diarrhea, you might want to switch to a very hypoallergenic diet. That’s what’s helped me. Probiotics such as Culturelle might also help.
- Try to take naps or sleep in when possible, and don’t feel too bad if you have to take an extra off day or two to rest.
- If you feel nausea coming on, try to eat something stable, and eat smaller meals throughout the day.
This has been a tough thing to experience, but it has given me a new perspective about what a woman has to go through during pregnancy. It has given me a deeper respect and appreciation for the sacrifices a woman makes to bring a baby into this world. So, thank you to all the women out there.
Follow Our Pregnancy Vlog
We’ve made a few pregnancy vlog videos on our YouTube channel, including some of the following:
- Pregnancy announcement
- Nurse Sarah’s pregnancy symptoms
- How to take a pregnancy test
- Top 10 pregnancy products
We also hope to add a gender reveal, and more in the future, so stay tuned!
1. Couvade syndrome among Polish expectant fathers.Kazmierczak M, Kielbratowska B, Pastwa-Wojciechowska B Med Sci Monit. 2013 Feb 21; 19():132-8.