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Friday, 17 February 2012

Male Pregnancy Symptoms

Couvade Syndrome- Male Pregnancy Symptoms

My dad craved dill pickles with saltine crackers when my mom was pregnant with me.  He’s kinda a macho man type, so not the man you would likely pick for sympathetic pregnancy symptoms.  Not that he was unsympathetic, just an unlikely candidate for male pregnancy symptoms.  None of my many uncles ever fessed up to such an occurrence.  They must have been telling lies of omission, as some researchers have proposed that as many as 80% of expectant fathers experience pregnancy symptoms. 
Couvade Syndrome is the phenomenon whereby a man who lives with a pregnant woman experiences symptoms of pregnancy.  Male pregnancy symptoms include morning sickness, food cravings, weight gain, heartburn, cramps, mood swings, fatigue, back pain, depression, insomnia, fainting, and stomach swelling resembling a baby bump. 
Male pregnancy symptoms of Couvade Syndrome are thought to be most common in the early stages of the pregnancy of their partner, and with the first child.  Reports abound however on message boards of male pregnancy symptoms with the second child, the last child, or variations, and of symptoms for the duration of the pregnancy.  Some men experience pain that appears similar to contractions and labor pain. 
A British study looked at weight gain as a male pregnancy symptom.  In an online survey by Onepoll, 5000 expectant fathers were surveyed.  Results indicated an average weight gain of 14 lbs during their partner’s pregnancy.  They experienced an increase of two inches in their waist measurements, with 25% having to buy bigger pants.  Only 30% reported joining their partner in dieting after the birth of the baby.

Most doctors seem skeptical of male pregnancy symptoms, and do not recognize Couvade Syndrome as a medical condition.  A team at St. George’s University in London interviewed 282 expectant fathers, aged 19 to 55.  They concluded “the vast majority” of subjects experienced male pregnancy symptoms, or sympathetic pregnancy symptoms. 

Dr. Arthur Brennan, head researcher, insists that Couvade Syndrome is real, and the expectant fathers are not merely seeking attention.  Brennan stated male pregnancy symptoms are involuntary, and the men are so in tune with their partners that they start to develop the same symptoms. 

The midwives program at St. George’s concurred with findings, saying men commonly complained of nausea during their partner’s early pregnancy.  Dr. Harriet Gross, Loughborough University Human Sciences senior lecturer, states Couvade Syndrome exists, and likely has a sympathetic basis.  She further states the male pregnancy symptoms, which commonly manifest in early pregnancy, may be anxiety-related, due to the uncertainty of early pregnancy. 
“Psychology-based theories” site physical manifestations seen with Couvade as a subconscious means to adjust to pregnancy, for the man to identify with his partner, bond with the unborn baby, emphasize his fatherhood, or regain his partner’s attention. 
Other explanations suggest male pregnancy symptoms may be an outlet for stress in preparation of fatherhood.  Another hypothesis is that the disruptions to an expecting couple’s lives during pregnancy may interrupt the expectant father’s circadian rhythms.  Disruptions to behavioral, physiological, and biochemical functions may be enough to cause male pregnancy symptoms. 
Swiss researcher Tiziana Perini studied 37 couples to compare couples expecting their first baby with couples who did not have children.  The expectant fathers had mood swings, and fluctuations in appetite and weight.  The men without children did not experience these changes.  Swiss TV interviewed a new father who reported dramatic increase in eating chocolate.  Dr. Perini, a psychotherapist, hypothesized that men’s hormones change during their partner’s pregnancy, to help them feel more involved. 

Canadian researchers, Wynne-Edwards and Storey, looked at hormone levels of men at various intervals during their partners’ pregnancies.  They found high levels of estradiol, prolactin, and cortisol in the men, which are low in men who are not expectant fathers.  These hormones are associated with stress response and aggression.  The researchers hypothesize that these elevated hormones give expectant fathers the drive and endurance to protect and nurture. 
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