Can Partners Experience Sympathy Pregnancy Symptoms?

Image adapted via Flickr/ Emery Co Photo

When you're pregnant, the symptoms you have to deal with during your first trimester can feel like they're plaguing you. You've got the nausea that just won't quit, a new form of tired that won't go away no matter how long you sleep, and cravings and food aversions complicate every meal. While they don't happen to every expecting mother, most people expect to have some of the bad with the good.

These symptoms tend to get better through the second trimester, but until birth, having some side effects thanks to the growing baby is to be expected. I was surprised that many of the symptoms I was told would go away at the end of the first trimester stuck around as long as they did, but when I heard that some partners have symptoms, too, I first thought, “Aw, how sweet!” but quickly realized that if my husband walked around complaining of nausea and being extra tired, I'd be annoyed.

{ MORE: How to Handle Being Sick While You're Pregnant }

However, it would seem that our non-pregnant partners can actually experience some “sympathy” symptoms along with us, and they may not be able to help it. The phenomenon is called “couvade syndrome,” and it's real.

Image via Flickr/ daniel.julia

What is “couvade syndrome”?

Couvade syndrome is defined as “an involuntary manifestation of pregnancy in men with a partner who is expecting a baby,” or also commonly called “sympathy pregnancy.”

The symptoms that partners who have couvade syndrome experience can't be attributed to illness or injury, and the only tie seems to be a pregnant partner. It's not recognized (as in medically so) as a physical or psychological condition, but it's real.

Image via Flickr/ moke076

How common is it?

There haven't been any long-term or large number studies to look at how common couvade syndrome is, but in the few studies that have been done, I was surprised by the numbers! A few studies found that as much as 20-50% of men experience symptoms during their partner's pregnancy, all with a range of symptoms reported.


{ MORE: Hot, Tired, and Huge? Check Out These Tips for Surviving a 3rd-Trimester Summer }

Image via Flickr/ David Leo Veksler

What kind of symptoms may be associated?

You know how pregnancy symptoms can vary for pregnant women? The same seems to hold true for partners experiencing sympathy pregnancy symptoms, too. Anything from nausea to heartburn and unexplained leg cramps to nesting have been reported. Some partners are also prone to experiencing depression, anxiety, and mood swings as well.

{ MORE: You Might Want To Think Twice About That Heartburn Medicine }

Image via Flickr/ miss pupik

A dad's story: Nesting

“My wife just delivered our first about 10 days ago, so this is pretty fresh on my mind. In the days leading up to the birth, I noticed that I was nesting alongside my wife. She had been at that for months, but it wasn't until the week before that I found myself clearing out my closet and reorganizing our condo to pave the way for our little guy, even though we knew he doesn't take up much space.” — Matthew

Image via Flickr/ pedrosimoes7

A dad's story: Pains, weight gain, and nausea

“I experienced sympathy symptoms throughout most of my wife's pregnancy a year ago. I gained extra weight, had otherwise unexplained pains, increased urination, and even nausea. There were probably more, but I remember all those right off the top of my head. I got ‘teased' incessantly about it by her mother, although I think she was actually a bit jealous that her daughter and I had a connection that she never got to experience.” — Eric

{ MORE: How Long Should You Wait to Get Pregnant Again? }

Did your partner experience any pregnancy symptoms during your pregnancy? Share in the comments!

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Can Partners Experience Sympathy Pregnancy Symptoms?

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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