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...