It has been written about in anthropological studies since before the birth of Christ, but is still not fully recognised medically. It affected blokes in the Basque region in medieval days, and inspired rituals in the tribal groups of Papua New Guinea, Thailand, China, Russia & the Americas. Some men swear it happens, some swear it's bollocks. Strabo observed it in his travels, as did Marco Polo, centuries later.
This phenomenon has been studied for many years, some believe it to be a psychosomatic condition, some believe it to be attention-seeking. Could it really be real?
Originating from an old French word meaning "to brood", Couvade is defined as "an involuntary disorder consisting of interrelated physical and psychological symptoms in the male partners of gestational (pregnant) women (Trethowan and Conlon 1965, Klein 1991,
Brennan et al 2007a; 2007b)." In short, sympathetic (phantom) pregnancy. A 2010 study found that almost 1 in 3 Australian men were affected by Couvade Syndrome, exhibiting at least 8 psychological or physical symptoms. A similar study conducted in the UK found that 1 in 4 men had experienced similar effects.
They physical symptoms are:
- stomach cramps/pains
- stomach distension
- food cravings or aversions
- increased or poor appetite
- weight gain or loss
- back pain
- leg cramps
The psychological symptoms are:
- sleeping more or less than usual
- early morning waking
- feeling low in mood
- mood swings
- feeling annoyed
- feeling frustrated
- feeling irritable
- feeling anxious/stressed
- feeling restless
- feeling preoccupied
- lacking motivation
- lacking concentration
So far, Meg has been pregnant for 7 months, and it's been a busy 7 months... She's been back to Australia, to Hong Kong, Port Moresby, Colombo and Hanoi. We've bought cars & broken bones. In the next two weeks I will go from Manila to Sydney and back, and then to London and back before the baby pops. With all that in mind, I can't really identify definite cause for any of the symptoms that I may have been feeling. I'm going to go on record here, and admit that yes, I have felt a few of these things in the past 7 months - I mean, who hasn't? Pregnancy or not, it would be hard to avoid a lot of the symptoms. Let's go back over the list again:
- stomach cramps/pains Yes, definitely
- stomach distension No, definitely not
- vomiting No - at least not without another reason
- food cravings or aversions No
- increased or poor appetite Yes, both fluctuating at different times
- weight gain or loss Yes, overall loss
- tiredness Absolutely
- toothache No
- back pain No
- leg cramps Yes - but only in the broken leg
- sleeping more or less than usual Yes, again, both
- early morning waking Yes
- feeling low in mood No
- mood swings No
- feeling annoyed I live in Manila...
- feeling frustrated I live in Manila... With a pregnant woman...
- feeling irritable As above
- feeling anxious/stressed As above
- feeling restless As above
- feeling preoccupied As above
- lacking motivation No
- lacking concentration Yes
So it's been a bit of a mixed bag - I can't really pinpoint with absolute certainty that I've experienced it, but sometimes the coincidence seems a little too good to be true. Short of reading too many scientific journals, there seems to be a lot of work going into establishing evidence of biological change in men's bodies as their partner's pregnancies continue. I'm guessing it's like when women's periods synchronise after living together, but I'm even less qualified to talk on that subject than this one.
I'm going to say that it can exist, but whether or not it's really real, I don't know. What I do know is that I've been tired for a week and can't sleep more than a few hours at a time... Also that my diet has gone out the window and all I crave is beer & pizza...
Today is Father's Day here in the Philippines, and how did I spend my day?
I awoke to find my darling fiancee watching some terrible, terrible television, so I cooked her a nice Sunday breakfast. Unfortunately, though, she felt a bit queasy afterwards & went straight back to bed. So my morning didn't really get off to a wonderful start, but I did get a cheeky lie-in, and now my TV isn't so embarrassed.
We have had a very busy time of late - we've had all of our parents visiting - who brought some amazing gifts with them; we've just picked up our new car; Meg went to Sri Lanka; we were able to get to Hong Kong and get some precious shopping time in; and my rugby team has returned to its winning ways!
Meg's parents visited recently (in two stints, mum first, then dad), bringing with them a whole heap more things for baby. They've delivered hundreds of leak-proof nappies as well as formula, clothes, toys, and all manner of other miscellany, and we are incredibly thankful. It's always great to have visitors like them :)
Our traveling has kicked up a notch, with Megan attending a work conference in Colombo for 5 days. Flying was a bit unpleasant due to her increasing belly becoming increasingly uncomfortable, combined with the late-night flights, does not for a happy Megan make... Our Hong Kong trip was much more enjoyable, however. A shorter, direct flight & the relative ease made for a much more relaxing experience. We were also able to fit in a good, solid shopping session at one of the SoHo baby stores which, even after a long day of traveling, saw Megan's eyes light up like an oasis in the desert. She was able to pick up a few maternity items which aren't available in the Manila stores - she keeps blaming the Filipinas for all being far too skinny...
For now though, we're back home & can put our feet up.... Well, sort of. Purchasing our new car will undoubtedly make our lives much easier. Getting a Manila taxi can be a harrowing, anxiety-promoting experience at the best of times, so after two years we've bitten the bullet & picked up our own vehicle. Neither of us really wanted our newborn to have to ride in the back of a cab here... the roads, safety standards & traffic is bad enough without having to share it with families of cockroaches & whatever else lives in the back of those cars....
I did have a small win - we didn't have to get a mini van!! We've got an SUV with 5 seats, which should be ample for the two of us with a baby seat. It means, though, that we wont be able to have a driver, a yaya & all of our family/friends ride along with us wherever we go, but I'm not concerned about that at all.
And finally my broken foot is healing up nicely & I am getting much closer to being back on the rugby field to join my mates again. No more sulking on the sideline!!
P.S. We still have no idea about a name...
Also, this - which is excellent:
Gonkin' out like a champ
This last week I was left on my own by my very pregnant lady. To be fair, I honestly didn't think too much of it at the time - after all, how much would it have affected me?
What I thought: not much....
As it turned out: A lot...
Eerily, I couldn't sleep. Now normally when I've been left for a business trip I'll set my own hours and be fine. What I found was that I would stay awake until I'd spoken to my dear partner - and then eagerly get up at the same time that we'd normally get up... and then not go back to sleep until I'd heard from her again...
Normally, this wouldn't be an issue. Anyone who knew me before would testify the same way (see above photo of yours truly being ultra attentive during a potential riot). Now, though, I can't come up with an explanation for it. Am I going through some wild sympathetic symptoms? Does my body change its patterns based on what's around me?
Once she got back, though, I put in some quality hours of downtime... I slept like I hadn't slept in weeks. And so did she. She seemed not to get much rest while she was away either. It seemed as though through some mystical force I was bound to this new influence in my life, whether I liked it or not. I wish that I could contribute it to some other factor, but I can't. I can't make sense of it: it happened.
What seems to be the worst part of it to me, is that this new part of my world isn't just affecting my lady - it's rubbing off unconsciously on me, to a degree I never would've expected, and never would've hoped. Yet I'm still so thankful for it.