Moms, here’s some consolation when you’re going through weight gain, morning sickness and hormonal changes during pregnancy: Your partner may be going through it, too.
Couvade syndrome is the phenomenon of people experiencing similar symptoms to those felt by their pregnant partners. While Couvade syndrome is not a diagnosable ailment, it is known to occur.
“Partners of pregnant women can experience weight gain, altered hormone levels, morning sickness, sleep problems and even postpartum depression,” said Dr. David Hirsch, a Marshfield Clinic OB/GYN.
Postpartum depression occurs after the baby is born and stems, in part, from drastic lifestyle changes that occur for parents after a child arrives.
Published in the Medical Science Monitor, a study in Poland of 143 expectant fathers found, “Although participants, on average, did not experience Couvade syndrome, they did experience symptoms that are commonly linked with the syndrome, namely those related to weight (weight gain, changes in appetite and flatulence).”
A British marketing company did their own survey of 5,000 expectant fathers, which found the average weight gain men reported during their partner’s pregnancy was 14 pounds.
There has not been a great deal of research on Couvade syndrome, Hirsch said. Most data on it has been gathered from surveys rather than tests in a lab setting. Hirsch said part of the explanation could be partners who experience Couvade syndrome have high levels of empathy, causing them to feel what their partner feels.
Practice partnership during pregnancy
Hirsch said it’s important for partners to be supportive of each other when one or both experience symptoms like weight gain or postpartum depression. Supportive partners can help each other through the adjustment of a new child.
Hirsch recommends partners attend prenatal appointments with expectant mothers. This way, the partner can learn about the pregnancy process, what to expect and how to support the mother. If pregnant mothers need dietary counseling during pregnancy or need to make other lifestyle changes, partners should engage in those processes as well.
“After delivery, partners should attend support groups and new-parent classes with the mother,” Hirsch said. “Those kinds of resources can be really helpful.”