Mother and Baby

What is a sympathetic pregnancy?

Section: Pregnancy

Is your partner empathising with your pregnancy symptoms a little too much? He may be on to something. 

A sympathetic pregnancy, also known as couvade syndrome, is where the partner of the woman who is expecting experiences pregnancy-related symptoms.


Why does this happen?

Couvade is more of a medical curiosity than a disease or a problem. It comes from the French word couvee, meaning "to hatch" and while men can't be pregnant, they can start to feel similar to their pregnant partners. 

James O-Loan, is a Superintendent Pharmacist from Chemist 4 U, and he says Couvade Syndrome is a condition that occurs but nobody has a solid and 100% accurate reason for why it occurs.

Sympathetic pregnancy is when an otherwise healthy man starts to experience pregnancy-related symptoms while their spouse is pregnant.

James said, "it could be anything from hormonal changes to even vomiting and abdominal pain." 

Research has concluded that couvade syndrome is not recognised as a medical condition.

They say its source is a matter of debate. Some believe it to be a psychosomatic condition, while others believe it may have biological causes relating to hormone changes.

Sometimes the partners who are experiencing this don't even notice and assume that it's just a bug, and nothing to do with pregnancy at all.

Some doctors have said that weight gain for the partners is normal, as it is common for the mother and the father to live together.


The mother's eating habits will be changing, and this can spur onto the father.

If you're around someone who is vomiting, in general, this can lead you to vomit yourself. 

Doctors say that the rest of the symptoms men can experience can be brought on by stress.

Which symptoms?

The symptoms that men have reported to experience only occur during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. 

Physical symptoms:

Psychological symptoms:

In more extreme cases, researchers have said that symptoms can include labour pains, postpartum depression, and nosebleeds.

The labour pain symptom is commonly known as sympathy pain.

Can you treat it?

There isn't a cure for couvade, but symptoms will fade once the baby is born. James explained that when your partner is pregnant, it can be very overwhelming, emotional and sometimes can come as quite a shock.

He said: "There is a big transition in going from life without a child, to live with a child (or life with more children, if the male already has them) and this might have a physical effect on your body as well as a mental one.

The symptoms of Couvade Syndrome align to those that often correlate with stress, anxiety and sometimes even excitement.

Nausea, abdominal pain, appetite changes are all issues that are likely to be felt because of the emotions connected to one’s partner carrying a baby.

"Sometimes pregnancy can be tough, and if the male’s partner is going through a particularly hard pregnancy, they may feel worried or anxious for her and this could also cause the ‘sympathetic pregnancy’ symptoms.”  

If your partner is pregnant, it is vital to manage any stress before it gets out of hand. You should:

  • Attend prenatal classes
  • Seek out advice and encouragement from friends and family
  • Communicate with your partner

Meet the expert: James O-Loan is a Superintendent Pharmacist from Chemist 4 U. 

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While training as a journalist at the University of Gloucestershire for 3 years, she was nominated for the Best Feature Category at the Midlands Student’s Media Awards this year, and Head of News and Social Media for the university’s radio station, Tone Radio. Ellie has been published by the likes of Heatworld, Heart, Gloucestershire Live, and ITV West Country. 

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