For everyone thinking that pregnancy is a solo journey for an expectant mother - think again. In 2005, CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta M.D. stated that approximately 90% of expectant fathers will experience at least one pregnancy-like symptom. The circumstances behind this bizarre phenomenon are up for some debate.
Many feel the explanation lies in hormonal secretions that often occur in expectant fathers. This school of thought feels that fathers possess innate and primal urges triggered in order to help them prepare for pending fatherhood. While other research justifies it in terms of intense emotional and psychological connections. Based on this viewpoint, the transition from childless man to proud papa is just about as profound as what any expectant mother will go through.
Couvade syndrome is also often to blame. This mysterious occurrence, sometimes known as sympathetic pregnancy, and the principles behind it are varied. Experts are divided - some believe it is completely psychosomatic arising from extreme sympathy and compassion. Others blame it on a man’s intense pregnancy envy or need to be the center of attention.
Whatever the specifics - it is apparent that these strange symptoms do exist. Case in point: Harry Ashby, a 29-year-old security guard was granted temporary leave from work because of morning sickness, a growing stomach, and breast development during his girlfriend’s pregnancy. Continue reading for 15 bizarre physical symptoms experienced by expectant fathers.
There are a ton of new-fangled inventions out there allowing expectant fathers to feel the fetal kicks and movements that their pregnant partners just take for granted. There’s no telling how scientifically accurate these pregnancy belts, bands and bracelets may be but they definitely make for good entertainment. However, according to statistics, there are many men out there claiming to feel these fetal movements even without any doodads!
Consider it coincidental or a mysterious symptom of couvade syndrome (sympathetic pregnancy). Either way, it can and does happen. And really, it’s not all that surprising considering many new moms report feeling phantom kicks after giving birth. This has often been explained as muscle memory, uterus contraction, internal organs shifting or else because of how accustomed they had become to noticing every teensy twinge during pregnancy. When a man has pregnancy on his mind, it only makes sense that he may be hyper aware of his own internal rumblings as well.
Over a third of new fathers admitted to gaining weight while their partners were pregnant. This can be attributed to the fact that they may be eating more in order to compensate for less social activity. Plus, strange and unusual food cravings can be highly contagious. Who doesn’t want to partake in a midnight snack consisting of Thai food chased down by hot fudge sundaes and salt and vinegar crackers? Also with baby on the horizon and not much child-free time left - exercise may take a backseat to more pressing responsibilities.
Unfortunately, this daddy weight gain can be the beginning of some bad eating habits that may become more difficult to shake once life becomes even busier with a newborn. Best to nip these bad habits in the bud right from the start.
In an expectant mom’s case - weight gain is a necessity. Her body stores fat and stockpiles nutrients in preparation of baby as well as future breastfeeding. Plus, a preggo’s breasts can clock in at up to two pounds each with an additional six pounds attributed to uterus, placenta, amniotic fluid, surplus blood and bodily fluids.
According to Seattle area family therapist Mary Dodge “Today’s fathers are far more involved and emotionally expressive than their predecessors and that means experiencing and acting upon nesting instincts . . . male nesting is a way for men to feel connected to the pregnancy. It tends to be something physical they can do to feel involved as well as preparing for their role as protector and provider.”
Having a safe and comfortable family car is a running theme in terms of dad-nesting which means opting for SUVs or minivans over sporty impractical cars. Another sign includes home renovations - suddenly finishing these incomplete or not-even-started renovations become of the utmost importance before baby arrives and money becomes tight and life more hectic. And since many expectant fathers know that a new baby will keep them housebound, they may elect to upgrade their personal toy collections - buying a bigger tv, installing a sick sound system, redecorating their man-caves while they still have the time and cash.
A preggo’s body produces approximately 50% more blood and fluids than normal - which means that edema or swelling typically occurs in the hands, face, legs, ankles and feet. There is purpose behind this fluid retention - it softens a woman’s body, helping with the necessary expansion required for a developing fetus. It also prepares the pelvic joints and tissues for childbirth.
While swelling can happen at any point during pregnancy, it is most likely to occur during the third trimester. Other factors that may account for swelling include:
If an expectant father experiences sympathy swelling, chances are it is due to one of the reasons listed above. Although, an increase in the hormone prolactin (found in breastfeeding mothers) or decrease in testosterone can be the culprit as well.
Constipation, excessive gas and uncomfortable bloating go hand-in-hand with annoying side effects of pregnancy - so how are they explained in terms of future daddies? The short answer is that men may experience similar symptoms but for completely different reasons than their partners.
In pregnant women, hormones may be wreaking havoc on her digestive system - making muscles relax and causing bowels to slow down. As well, an expanding uterus takes up precious space previously allotted to the bowel. Not to mention that prenatal vitamins (specifically iron) can do a number on clogging up a woman’s pipes too.
As for expectant fathers, their stomach issues may be explained by stress, worry and sleeplessness. Now that a baby is on the horizon, they may have other things on their mind which take the focus off of diet and exercise.
Also, sympathy constipation may be occurring in a man who is highly attuned to his partner’s pregnancy experiences. Another example of couvade syndrome in action - where a man endures pregnancy-like symptoms in sympathy for his partner.
Feeling some abdominal pain and discomfort is typically a part of any normal and healthy pregnancy. After all, a woman’s uterus is growing, her ligaments and skin are stretching and internal organs may even be shifting to accommodate the expansion.
But aches and pains don’t exclusively fall into mother territory. Many expectant fathers have reported toothaches, backaches, headaches as well as other pregnancy-related discomfort when their partners are with child. While this may sound like something straight out of a supernatural or scifi movie, it’s actually more common than people may realize.
Often considered psychologically-rooted as opposed to physically, there’s no reason to scoff. Some men have the ability to relate to their pregnant partner to the point that they sympathetically undergo similar symptoms themselves. However, men may want to keep their complaints to a minimum - otherwise, they may legitimately end up with an ache and pain right in the nose!
Extreme emotions or mood swings are one more thing to add to the laundry list of pregnancy issues. Most often caused by stress, exhaustion and/or hormonal changes - it remains clear that men are susceptible to two out of three. Just the idea of becoming a parent and being solely responsible for another human being is enough to elevate or deflate a mood depending on a person’s thought processes.
Many preggos experience emotional flare-ups around the six to ten week mark. While they typically fade during the second trimester, they often reappear with a vengeance as the due date rapidly approaches. Men may become moody or overly emotional in direct response to their partners’ moodiness. As well, when a man sees his partner in pain and discomfort and feels helpless - this can also take a toll on his emotional state of mind.
There’s a reason pregnancy is often compared to a rollercoaster ride. It’s important to remember that partners share a common bond with this pregnancy - neither of them is going through it alone.
Fetal development can be a back breaking-business - literally. Many women report back strain and pain during the second half of their pregnancy. This is because weight gain, posture changes, and even stress can put a lot of pressure on the sacroiliac joint (where the pelvis meets the spine). Hormonal fluctuations can be to blame as well. The hormone relaxin is key in loosening up joints and ligaments in preparation of childbirth. At the same time, it may end up affecting the spinal ligaments and the result can be painful.
Expectant fathers may notice back pain as well. It may be completely coincidental and occur due to stress and exhaustion. They may also be unknowingly taxing their body by picking up slack around the house or rushing to get everything in order before the baby arrives. Or else, it may be completely involuntary and mysteriously unexplained - just another notch on the belt of couvade syndrome.
Tossing and turning throughout the night is something else that becomes common place for the extremely pregnant. Sleep may be scarce thanks to the demands of any of the following:
There’s a saying: If momma ain’t sleeping - ain’t nobody sleeping. So chances are if an expectant mother is experiencing mom-somnia, then so is her partner by default.
Of course, a future father may have problems of his own keeping him awake at night. He might be feeling overwhelmed and stressed - maybe even guilty about his own ability to sleep comfortably. His mind may be on high alert regarding the changes that are about to occur in his life.
According to studies, it is extremely common for expectant fathers to experience parenthood anxiety most often due to worries about:
Part of any pregnant woman’s rollercoaster ride includes the ups and downs of her libido. Many preggos note a ramped-up sex drive once symptoms like fatigue and nausea fade. Although, during trimester #3, a whole new crop of annoyances set in such as back pain, sleeplessness, discomfort, not to mention a large belly which may make sex too onerous to even consider.
Expectant fathers may find themselves at the mercy of a seesawing sex drive as well. Many men consider pregnancy a real turn-on, yet lose interest in sex after having their advances consistently rebuffed. Stress, worry and anxiety can play major roles in a man’s libido (or lack of one). Still others are worried about sex causing harm to their partner or their baby. Especially in cases where a pregnancy has proven difficult or there is a history of miscarriage, men may be content with some short-term celibacy.
Most human beings will experience food cravings from time to time and so long as they aren’t harmful or criminal, there’s really no reason not to indulge once in a while. A woman who regularly craves specific foods may notice they will intensify upon getting knocked up.
While some research has hormone fluctuations as the culprit behind these appetite adjustments, still others insist that these cravings are directly linked to food aversions. For example, a pregnant woman may crave a food that has a neutralizing effect on an aversion she experiences.
And when it comes to pregnancy and food cravings, men are not always left in the dust. One expectant father attributed his intense longing for apples during his wife’s pregnancy to this: “I did everything to get involved in the pregnancy and birth. It brought the two of us closer and I found my emotions became very much aligned with hers.”
Excessive urination happens to be one of the earliest symptoms that may alert a woman that a baby’s on board. First noticeable around the six-week mark, peeing more than usual can be the result of hormonal variations as well as a quicker-than-normal turn around of blood flow through the kidneys. Plus an extra amount of fluids are being processed which means a preggo’s bladder will fill up faster than normal. Not to mention that a growing uterus will place more pressure on the bladder as well.
Many expectant fathers complain of frequent urination during their partner’s pregnancy. The reasoning behind this situation isn’t as cut and dried and may be up for some debate. For example, a man’s bladder may go into hyper-mode just because he’s witness to his partner’s exorbitant bathroom breaks - urinating can sometimes be just as contagious as a yawn.
Either that, or future daddy may be suffering from prostrate problems or an STD. Here’s hoping it’s just a case of sympathy tinkling.
The phenomenon known as mom-nesia or pregnancy brain, while a very real occurrence in expectant mothers may not actually have to do with any physical changes within the brain. Preggos have reported forgetfulness, clumsiness, feeling more scattered and unfocussed than usual - basically just not being as mentally sharp as when not pregnant.
While research tends to be divided on the reasons, many experts believe the likely causes are not directly linked to the pregnancy. In fact, they may be caused by pregnancy fall-out such as a lack of sleep, increased stress and anxiety, a major shift in life priorities as well as hormones. This explains why many men have noted symptoms consistent with pregnancy brain.
What’s more is that studies have shown that some expectant fathers experience a release of the hormone prolactin (which is responsible for breast development and milk production in preggos) and a decrease in testosterone. Couple this with the fact that men also have to deal with life changes based on a pregnancy, and daddy brain becomes a logical outcome.
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms often associated with a healthy pregnancy. Up to 70% of preggos will experience it at some point during their first trimester and while it typically fades - sometimes it doesn’t. There is still much mystery shrouded around specific reasons behind pregnancy-related nausea - some studies suggest it is caused by hormones, stress, fatigue and stomach sensitivities.
According to Dr. Val Collington of Kingston University in England, in her experience, many midwives have found men afflicted by nausea during the early stages of their partners’ pregnancies. The good news is that many healthcare professionals believe that when this occurs, it predicts a strong and healthy bond between father and baby. In these instances, many experts feel the sympathetic symptoms may either cause or be the result of mysterious biological processes involved in forming social attachments.
In a woman’s case, pregnancy can exacerbate feelings of stress and depression because of physical discomfort, body changes, hormonal imbalances as well as worries about labor and delivery. There is also a whole new realm of emotional upheaval that is part and parcel to having a baby.
That said, men with a history of anxiety or depression may be at an increased risk of experiencing symptoms while their partner is pregnant. As most parents have already discovered, pregnancy is not always the joyous occasion it can be chalked up to be. It can be a significantly stressful time full of change and fear.
During these next nine months, a lot of new responsibilities may fall on a man’s shoulders. At this point in time, expectant parents should take advantage of their partnership and lean on one another and be strong for each other as well as for their baby.
Sources: WebMD.com, SheKnows.com, WhatToExpect.com, PsychologyToday.com, Parenting.com, WashingtonPost.com, Parents.com, Telegraph.co.uk, TheBump.com, AmericanPregnancy.org, ScientificAmerican.com, BabyCenter.com, HealthLine.com, ParentingMap.com, Express.co.uk