What is “couvade”?

Pregnancy Read more from
Chapter The Psychology of Everyday Life:Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage

Afascinating cross-cultural phenomenon, termed couvade, speaks to how some men process the psychological challenges facing expectant fathers. Couvade has been witnessed in many different cultures, and may have even been recorded by Marco Polo during his world travels. In couvade, an expectant father takes on some of the physical symptoms associated with pregnancy. Such symptoms include gastro-intestinal problems, sleep disturbances, and even weight gain.

This appears to serve several psychological purposes. By exhibiting some of the physical symptoms of pregnancy, the expectant father simultaneously draws closer to his wife, demands recognition of his role in the pregnancy process, and psychologically prepares himself for the new baby’s arrival. Some authors suggest there are biological causes for this phenomenon as well as psychological ones. Indeed, there is evidence that during pregnancy, men undergo hormonal changes that are similar in quality if not quantity with their pregnant partners. Studies have shown increased prolactin and estradiol and decreased testosterone during and immediately after pregnancy in both males and females.

It has been shown that some men empathize so much with their pregnant wives that they may experience some of the physical symptoms of pregnancy (iStock).


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