If your partner is expecting a baby, chances are you are sharing some of her pregnancy symptoms. According to Mayo Clinic expert and psychiatrist Dr Daniel K Hall-Flavin, men can experience couvade or sympathetic pregnancy. Research reveals that this is a common occurrence, with around 90% of dads-to-be experiencing one or more symptoms. Dr Hall-Flavin says further studies are needed to determine whether this is a physical condition with psychological causes.
However, real or not, Dr Hall-Flavin says that becoming a parent can be exciting, emotional and stressful. “If your partner is pregnant, take steps to manage stress and prepare for parenthood. Attend prenatal classes and seek out advice and encouragement from friends and family. Talk to your partner, and understand that planning for the challenges ahead can help ease your transition into parenthood.”
Suffering from heartburn, restless nights and tiredness?
You are probably just a bit anxious and experiencing pregnancy nerves. Chat to other dads as they will be able to share their experiences with you. Also communicate with your partner as she is probably feeling the same way you are. Be involved in your partner’s pregnancy as this will help you feel more in control.
Unlike your partner, whose morning sickness is due to the influx of oestrogen into her body, that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach is probably linked to anxiety. Your diet has probably also changed (as have your portion sizes), due to your partner’s cravings and appetite changes. Plus, you may be eating more yourself as a cure for stress. The best answer is to get (or stay) active, as exercise is a great way to get those feel-good hormones activated while simultaneously calming the mind.
Yes, you too! You may find yourself swinging between joy and concern, anxiety and calm. Having a baby is life changing, and it’s OK to be concerned about this. The problem is these thoughts generally tend to hit you in the middle of the night, resulting in a lack of sleep (and further crankiness). Concerns about being a good father and partner are completely normal, as are the highs and lows that accompany this. Being a new parent takes practice, and you will learn on the job. Cut yourself some slack. You will be great.
Just as your wife’s sex drive revs and ebbs, yours will too. Some men are turned on by the changes in their partner’s body, while for others they are a reminder on how life is changing and the responsibilities this brings. Some moms are concerned that they will hurt the baby or their partner. The good news is that you can’t hurt your unborn baby (and she can’t “see” or experience anything). And when it comes to your partner, be guided by her. Now is the time to experiment with positions and find a different sort of intimacy.
Putting on weight
Did you know that men gain on average around 2kg during their partner’s pregnancy? Sympathetic snacking with your wife may be one reason, but the other is due to stress. Cortisol is the stress hormone, which is released at higher levels during times of stress and anxiety. This hormone also regulates insulin and blood sugar levels, which means you may feel hungry, when you actually aren’t. Not only may you be eating more, but cortisol also means that the extra kilograms end up on your belly region. Again, being active will help calm the mind, and the body.
Aches and pains
While many of your sympathy pregnancy symptoms can be explained, there are others that can’t be explained. Research shows that some men may even experience the same pains in the same places and at the same time as their pregnant partners. Dads-to-be often complain about toothache, backache, headaches and even leg cramps during their partner’s pregnancy. There is no medical reason why you may be experiencing this. Chat to your partner, and share your fears and feelings, and listen to hers. You will both feel better for it.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.