Some expectant fathers show signs very similar to those in mothers.
Just as mothers get expectant, we also have expectant fathers. And yes they too get symptoms similar to those of their partners. Though, it’s a belief most especially in the African culture that only women experience pregnancy symptoms. Research shows that men too have pregnancy symptoms when their partners are expectant. It’s called the Couvade Syndrome, a French term which means “we are pregnant”. The so-called sympathetic-pregnancy symptom brings about a complex transition in men both psychologically and physically.
Who is an expectant father?
Michael had been feeling sick for a while. He had a severe case of nausea. He couldn’t hold anything down. He drank a lot of water but it all came out. It seemed like his stomach couldn’t hold anything. The weird thing is that the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him.
When his wife was tested a few weeks later, she was positively pregnant. The doctor told him that he was an expectant father. That he had been experiencing couvade syndrome and may continue doing so for the first semester of his wife’s pregnancy.
For the next three months, he gained weight as his wife’s pregnancy weight developed. He craved for fat-laden foods which his wife also craved. When his wife was throwing up in one bathroom, he was throwing up in the other. He had extreme mood swings which his wife also had. They both ate for two.
The sympathetic-pregnancy symptoms may continue throughout the pregnancy. Sometimes they even go past the pregnancy to the fourth trimester.
What are these sympathetic- pregnancy symptoms that the expectant father has?
Expectant father sign #1: Food cravings
Everyone is aware of food cravings expectant women have. What you may not know is that their male partners also experience the cravings especially for dairy products. In fact in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, a woman’s pregnancy was (and maybe still is) considered confirmed when her spouse began craving carbohydrate-rich foods.
Do not be surprised when the expectant dad suddenly develops an appetite for foods he wouldn’t have otherwise bothered about. He might also have a bigger appetite than he’s normally known for.
So as an expectant mom, let him dig into your ice cream or chips with equal measure. Better still, have another pack of ice cream and chips for him. Remember he too is eating for two in sympathy with you.
Expectant father sign #2: Anxiety
All dads-to-be experience restlessness when their partners are pregnant. They always become a little anxious due to pregnancy. These men share pregnancy worries with their partners.
They worry when their partner is having a hard time falling asleep. Which is what pregnant women go through. This may result in fatigue and insomnia.
They worry about whether the income he currently has will sustain another mouth. What to do to get more income. How the arrival of the newborn will affect the current relationship with the spouse. They might even be worrying about how the spouse is coping with the pregnancy. This anxiety is not unfounded.
While worrying is a good sign, it has never solved any problem. The expectant daddies should try and reduce stress by adopting an exercise routine and talking about their anxieties.
Expectant father sign #3: Weight gain
It’s been noted that many men show weight gain after the delivery of their firstborn. This is more likely associated with the pregnancy symptoms they experienced when their partners are expectant.
The enlarged belly of the mother to be is ok. But why do dads also have that potbelly protruding during their wife’s pregnancy? It may be because of that sympathetic snacking with the spouse. Or maybe, the intake of ‘nyama choma’ and beer.
The more likely cause is cortisol the “stress” hormone. Researchers have found that this hormone is higher when you are anxious. Cortisol regulates insulin and blood sugar levels. It makes your body think it’s hungry when it isn’t during those anxious moments. The unbelievable thing is that all the excess fat is deposited in the belly. That’s why you have that protruding tummy when your wife should be the pregnant one.
Expectant father sign #4: Mood swings
It’s not only expectant women who get moody. Their partners also get moody. Mostly this is because of the mixed emotions the dads are experiencing. First-time dads are especially prone to this. They are preparing themselves to be perfect dads which might bring a lot of mental stress. Another reason could be the oxytocin hormone.
The oxytocin hormone, also known as “cuddle” hormone, rises in the father when childbirth nears. The testosterone levels also drop, thereby making the father-to-be vulnerable to emotions.
These mood swings may prolong to the first three months after the baby is born.
The best way to counter the father’s ‘blues’ is to allow him more time with the baby.The ‘fourth trimester’ or the first three months of infantry is normally considered baby and mother time. The father, therefore, feels left out. He feels inadequate and less in control of his own life as well as his family’s life. The relationship with the spouse may also suffer during this time. He may feel a little jealous of the baby who is taking more time of his love hence the mood swings.
The best way to counter the father’s ‘blues’ is to allow him more time with the baby. Most mothers tend to ‘gatekeep’; they allow the dad to attend to certain tasks she feels he can accomplish with the baby. The mother should instead support the father in developing his unique and lasting attachment to the child.
Expectant father sign #5: Aches and pains
The symptoms of couvade syndrome are caused by nerves. But some men have more mysterious symptoms such as headache, backaches, toothache, leg cramps, and others according to studies. Others even have pain in the same areas as their spouses.
Researches have yet to find a decent explanation for these simultaneous symptoms. Though, many believe that they are mainly psychological. The expectant daddies are just responding to their subconscious feeling of the upcoming competition. Or they are just experiencing sympathy labor pains.
Expectant daddies are likely to experience morning sickness too. It’s good to note that morning sickness is not only for the mornings or mothers-to-be. Believe it or not, anxiety may be the likely cause of your queasiness.
The feeling of wanting to throw up especially after eating or drinking something. Or even when you perceive an offensive smell, is quite irritating. Relaxing your mind and body may bring some relief. A bit of exercise too can help with nausea.
Women are naturally unsympathetic when pregnant because they believe this is the time they should be waited upon. As an expectant mom, try to understand your partner’s feelings and establish a bond that makes him always want to be with his baby. Keep in mind that he is not being an attention seeker. He too is expecting a child even though he is not physically carrying the baby. Probably what he is feeling may be as a result of being sympathetic to your condition. He is just being another expectant father.
Being sympathetic to his feelings during pregnancy is crucial to his ability to cope, especially during the latter stages. Making him accompany you to maternal clinics will also help reduce his anxieties.