Couvade Syndrome: When Expectant Dads Get Pregnancy Symptoms

A couple of expecting parents both wake up with nauseaCouvade Syndrome: When Expectant Dads Get Pregnancy Symptoms

January 16, 2019 • By Zawn Villines

Couvade syndrome is a condition in which men with pregnant partners begin to experience symptoms of pregnancy. The causes of Couvade syndrome aren’t fully understood, though several theories exist. This condition has not been recognized as either a medical or mental health issue.


Couvade syndrome or sympathy pregnancy occurs when a pregnant woman’s partner experiences pregnancy symptoms. Called Couvade syndrome when it occurs in men, it might also be referred to as pregnant dad syndrome, male pregnancy experience, or sympathetic pregnancy.

Though symptoms can vary, they usually involve some combination of the following:

  • Gastrointestinal issues like nausea, stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Back pain, leg cramps
  • Changes in appetite, weight gain
  • Toothache
  • Respiratory issues
  • Issues with urination or genital discomfort
  • Symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • Restlessness, sleeplessness, other changes in sleep habits
  • Decreased libido

Symptoms of this condition usually appear in the first trimester, around the third month of pregnancy. They improve temporarily during the second trimester, in most cases, and return in the third trimester. Once the baby is born, symptoms typically disappear.


A similar condition called pseudocyesis, or phantom pregnancy, might be confused with Couvade syndrome. However, pseudocyesis has been recognized as a mental health issue. It’s listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a somatic symptom disorder.

Pseudocyesis, a somewhat rare condition, occurs more commonly in Africa than in Europe or America. Women with this condition become convinced they are pregnant when they are not. They may show pregnancy symptoms such as:

  • Swollen breasts and stomach
  • Light periods or no periods at all
  • Morning sickness
  • Feeling fetal movement
  • Labor pains at estimated due date (this only happens in 1% of cases)

Research has suggested several potential causes for phantom pregnancies. Some cases may result from a strong desire to become pregnant, hence why it occurs more commonly among couples experiencing infertility. Other cases may occur due to an intense fear of becoming pregnant. Some studies have suggested pseudocyesis may develop within the context of depression and its accompanying endocrine changes.


A number of theories attempt to explain how Couvade syndrome develops. One or more of these factors may contribute to the occurrence of Couvade syndrome, though medical experts still don’t know why some men develop the condition.


Somatic symptoms are real physical symptoms that result from emotional distress. It’s common for new parents to feel anxiety or stress about the birth of their child, no matter how excited or happy they feel. It’s believed that feelings of anxiety or stress may lead to somatic symptoms resembling those of pregnancy.

Becoming a parent also marks a change in an adult’s role in society. This can also lead to feelings of stress and anxiety, whether a person realizes it or not. Researchers have suggested some men manifest pregnancy symptoms as a way of unconsciously dealing with how they feel about their new responsibilities and the changes they’ll experience.

Changes in hormone levels

Some research has shown men whose partners are pregnant may experience hormone changes, such as decreased testosterone and increased estradiol. It’s possible these hormonal changes could contribute to many symptoms of Couvade syndrome.

Feelings of attachment

Men who are more involved with a partner’s pregnancy and have more fetal involvement (listening to the heartbeat, feeling movement, and so on) may be more likely to experience pregnancy symptoms. Participating in pregnancy-related events and being involved in childbirth preparations may lead some men to feel closer to their unborn child and identify more strongly with the role of father. This may lead to sympathy pregnancy symptoms, according to some experts.

Psychosocial causes

Some doctors believe Couvade syndrome relates to mental health. Common explanations for symptoms include:

  • Envy of a partner’s ability to become pregnant and give birth
  • Guilt over getting their partner pregnant
  • A sense of rivalry regarding the role of parenthood

However, these are only potential theories, and none have been proven through research.


Men all over the world experience Couvade syndrome. Studies have found varying rates in different parts of the world, but the most recent statistics suggest Couvade syndrome occurs in about 25% to 52% of men in the United States who have pregnant partners. Though Couvade syndrome appears fairly common, studies on the condition to date have focused on the male partners of women who are pregnant. Very little research has looked at Couvade syndrome in LGBTQ+ couples.

Men all over the world experience Couvade syndrome.

While it’s possible to experience severe symptoms, many have only a few mild symptoms. Since symptoms disappear after childbirth in nearly all cases, this condition could go mostly unnoticed. But some men may feel confused, concerned, or otherwise distressed about their symptoms. Health care professionals have found it can help to briefly explain the condition to men who experience distress and let them know Couvade syndrome isn’t unusual. It may also be reassuring to know Couvade syndrome is often described as a reaction to the changes pregnancy and parenthood bring, not a sign of a mental health issue or other concern.


Because symptoms resolve on their own and don’t generally pose a threat or cause harm, there’s no specific treatment recommended for men who have Couvade syndrome. However, there are several strategies that can help ease symptoms.

Some men find meditation, yoga, and similar approaches help them feel more relaxed. Therapy may help people who experience depression or anxiety symptoms as part of Couvade syndrome. It can also treat preexisting diagnoses which have been exacerbated by stress.

Medication, including herbal remedies, can help treat physical symptoms like nausea or pain. Some men might experience sympathy labor pains, which medication can also help with.

Remember that you aren’t alone. If you’re struggling with your feelings about parenthood, or experiencing symptoms you don’t understand, a trained therapist can help you work through them. Reach out today!

Couvade Syndrome and Sympethic Pregnacies FAQS

  • What causes couvade syndrome?
  • How long does couvade syndrome last?
  • How common is couvade?
  • What are the symptoms of couvade syndrome in men?


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association. 327.
  2. Brennan, A., Ayers, S., Ahmed, H., & Marshall-Lucette, S. (2007). A critical review of the Couvade syndrome: The pregnant male. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 25(3), 173-189. Retrieved from
  3. Devi, A. M., & Chanu, M. P. (2015). Couvade syndrome. International Journal of Nursing Education and Research, 3(3). Retrieved from–28-05-2015DE/links/5667b26c08aea62726ee986a/7-IJNER-165–28-05-2015DE.pdf
  4. Hall-Flavin, D. K. (2016, August 25). What can you tell me about couvade? Can men really experience sympathetic pregnancy symptoms? Retrieved from
  5. Ibekwe, P. C., & Achor, J. U. (2008). Psychosocial and cultural aspects of pseudocyesis. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(2). Retrieved from
  6. Klein, H. (1991). Couvade syndrome: Male counterpart to pregnancy. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 21(1), 57-69. Retrieved from
  7. Piechowski-Jozwiak, B., & Bogousslavsky, J. (2018). Couvade syndrome – custom, behavior, or disease? Frontiers of Neurology and Neuroscience, 42(1), 51-58. Retrieved from
  8. Tarín, J. J., Hermenegildo, C., García-Pérez, M. A., & Cano, A. (2013). Endocrinology and physiology of pseudocyesis. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 11(39). Retrieved from

© Copyright 2019 All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2019 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Kabelo P

    September 20th, 2019 at 12:40 AM

    I also experience those symptoms i didn’t know till i google wow very helpful indeed

  • Phumudzo

    November 25th, 2019 at 7:23 PM

    Thank you very much for this article, it is now clear what has been happening to me for the past 5 months , I have experienced all the symptoms mentioned, I’m very frustrated but atleast now I know.

    Thank you once more.

  • arjun

    January 29th, 2020 at 1:06 AM

    I noticed your Article. I just loved it.

  • Sindy

    April 18th, 2020 at 1:54 PM

    Hubby now, toothache is troubling him. He can’t figure which one is painful. The changes in appetite. I sometimes fail to understand him. Now I know, I’ll be supportive. First trimester is almost over, end of April.

  • hannah

    April 20th, 2020 at 3:45 PM

    what does it mean when your husband have some of those pregancy systoms but when u take a pregancy test it always says negative on it .

  • Whitney

    May 22nd, 2020 at 7:59 AM

    my bf is throwing up and sweating like a pig … what exactly could this mean & should I be worried?

  • Vikiranki

    July 27th, 2020 at 1:41 AM

    Very insightful . Thank you, I’ve cleared my fears. I suddenly discovered eczema on my face. I’ve been worried sick.

  • Leonie

    July 31st, 2020 at 1:17 PM

    Is this really really covade. My baby beat me once in the second trimester, done things, I thought demon come on him, I went back home still. He keeps calling me and begging me to tell him of the situation so he can remember.

  • David

    August 27th, 2020 at 7:50 PM

    Thinking about my friend if she’s pregnant and it’s now causing me to experience less sleep in the morning can this mean she’s pregnant? Please help?

  • Andiswa

    September 12th, 2020 at 10:42 AM

    Guys can this be a part of pregnancy symptom

    Since I got pregnant my hubby sometimes pee himself during sleep

    Can dat be a symptom of pregnancy on him?

  • Antowin

    September 24th, 2020 at 9:32 AM

    What about the feeling hot and cold does anybody have that feeling in mouth stay watery

  • Albert

    October 18th, 2020 at 3:33 PM

    I had all the symptoms which were horrible
    But my wife gave birth last week and I still have some of them still :/ how long do the symptoms lasts? Please help? Thanks!!

  • chantel

    March 29th, 2021 at 3:54 PM

    my boyfriend dosent have the symptoms thats what he said we dont live together is it common for him to have no symptoms he says he has no back pain are hes not tired but i took three test and its positive

  • Reuben

    August 11th, 2021 at 12:38 AM

    I feel pain all over my body, I have lose appetite,, I get constipation often, I can’t sleep’s because my wife is pregnant?

  • Summer

    August 20th, 2021 at 3:44 PM

    This is my 3rd pregnancy, but my 2nd with my now husband. He never experienced any symptoms with our son but this pregnancy with our daughter he has experienced several of the symptoms on the list. He had alot of morning sickness especially the first and second trimesters and more than me at times. Now I’ve entered the third trimester he has severe heartburn, which I also do. Baby girl better have a head full of hair. He has some of the weirdest cravings and I haven’t had any, cream cheese on cookies, refried beans with whip cream, and other odd combinations of food.. He does feel alot closer to this baby and she’s not even here, maybe cause he’s going through everything I am also. I think every man should experience pregnancy symptoms at least once to understand what pregnancy is somewhat like ans what pregnant women go through and what makes it so tough at times. He has made me enjoy this pregnancy alot more and has treated me like a queen and has helped cook, clean, tend to our almost 2 year old son. He has been a real trooper and im so grateful for him.

  • Cheslea

    September 15th, 2021 at 4:47 PM

    Hi my fiance has some of these symptoms and I have had them since Sunday and/so your saying I am possibly pregnant and he is having symptoms because I’m possibly pregnant

  • Kevin

    October 29th, 2021 at 6:35 AM

    Is it possible for me (a male) to feel these symptoms even if the baby isn’t mine?

  • johnny

    November 17th, 2021 at 6:30 PM

    This is what I want to know

  • Nutella Mom

    November 30th, 2021 at 2:55 AM

    Though diarrhea during pregnancy can be embarrassing, it does not have any effects on the fetus. You should avoid eating high-fiber, spicy foods, and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration. If you experience frequent bouts of diarrhea, consult with a health care provider to determine whether the cause is related to the medications you are taking, or to your own body. Despite the discomfort, diarrhea does not pose any harm to the fetus. During this time, it is important for pregnant women to drink plenty of water and take a balanced diet.

  • Amit

    December 3rd, 2021 at 6:41 AM

    Good content you are having on this page loved to be a member of this page keep up the good work guyz, you are doing a great job for awareness.

  • Raj

    December 4th, 2021 at 5:24 AM

    It’s correct.. I’m getting the above symptoms.. I’m gaining weight.. Anxiety.. Tooth ache.. Stomach cramps.. I heard weight gain is a signal for a boy..

  • Rana

    January 11th, 2022 at 4:51 AM

    Good content and all the information regarding diarrhea in pregnancy in pregnancy is there in this blog very rich content you are having on this page loved to be a member of this page keep up the good work guyz, you are doing a great job for awareness.

  • Fred

    January 16th, 2022 at 4:55 PM

    This is true. I have all the mentioned symptoms and mostly I am restless, sleepless and my sex drive is very high which has never happened in my life that I can’t hold up myselfy and my partner lost sex interest.

  • Oliech

    February 28th, 2022 at 8:07 AM

    Hi my wife is experiencing signs of being pregnant but she is testing negative

  • Roland

    June 7th, 2022 at 1:06 PM

    Am having all those symptoms and my girlfriend is pregnant, but she said am not the one responsible for the pregnancy. So what will i do?

  • Kyle

    June 28th, 2022 at 8:24 PM

    Wow, This is crazy but I’ve been experiencing symptoms too and I don’t even have a partner or know anyone pregnant! what does this mean??? :/

  • Vandah

    August 25th, 2022 at 8:18 PM

    I know of at least two men who experienced couvade syndrome. It was because the symptoms they experienced why the girlfriends got tested, as they had no symptoms whatsoever prior to being tested. In fact one had given up on having babies. I didn’t know this phenomenon had a name but I like mother/father’s nature sense of humor to turn the tables so that men get a feel for what women go through during those nine months….it should be the case in every pregnancy.!!

  • Lucus

    August 31st, 2023 at 9:54 PM

    I tested positive but wife negative??? Why back hurt. -Ryan

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