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When you hear of pregnancy, you conjure up the image of a woman, with a baby bump, probably tossing for a comfortable position to sit or sleep or just plain simple breath! Going further you may picturize a hospital labor room, frantic cries on every contraction and an impatient dad waiting and prancing up and down the same corridor for the millionth time!

This reminds me of ‘DAD-TO-BE’. The one who’s always at the receiving end, running frantically to make his pregnant partner comfortable, giving in to her every craving and all the while waiting patiently for his bundle to arrive, mind you he’s 50 percentage responsible too!

Can a father-to-be experience pregnancy- like symptoms?

Humans mate, the woman gets pregnant, carries the offspring for nine months called the gestation period and at the end you have a beautiful baby on your hands to cuddle. Animals too follow the same ritual, for the exception of some like Penguins, where dad’s in charge of incubating the egg and in the process the poor soul loses about a half of its body weight! The sea horse takes this a step further. They have a little pouch on their body, where the female deposits up to 1500 eggs (yes you read that right) and the male sea horse carries them for up to 45 days and provides them with the right nutrients before tiny sea horses are ready to come into the world. Now here you can imagine frantic prancing down the corridors by females!

Jokes apart, even human males experience pregnancy-like symptoms together with their female counterparts and the clinical term is referred to as ‘COUVADE SYNDROME’.

What is Couvade Syndrome?

Couvade Syndrome is a medical condition where just as a pregnant woman, her male partner also experiences pregnancy symptoms like weight gain, nausea, insomnia and mood swings. It is also known as male pregnancy or sympathetic pregnancy or hysterical pregnancy.

As per clinical studies, this syndrome is rather common and a number as high as ninety percent of men experience at least one pregnancy related symptom during their partner’s pregnancy. The medical causes or the pathology behind the couvade syndrome is yet to be clearly identified. It is attributed to several causes by researchers. It is believed by some to be a psychological issue as men may feel left out when their partner is pregnant or it can be a result of a man’s envy given a woman and her body’s ability to create a being. It can also stem out of the fact that men feel left out during pregnancy and they seem to be just getting chores done or fulfilling cravings!

Some researchers attribute the couvade syndrome to physical issues. Dad-to-be’s are often worrying upon the impending changes that a pregnancy and subsequent delivery will bring. To this end they may look at food as a comfort partner and end up eating more just as mum-to-be. This results in weight gain and subsequent mood swings. The added pounds will convert the body’s testosterone into estrogen and these increased levels of estrogen will bring about nausea and mood swings.

Dads-to-be are often sleep deprived as well. Having a pregnant partner and seeing her in discomfort can be quiet an unnerving experience for dads-to-be as well. Especially towards the end of the third trimester, the rate of insomnia or sleeplessness and other sleep related issues may begin to bother dads-to-be as well. All of this cumulatively can add on to the existing stress quotient and bring on irritability as well.

What’s the cure to problems brought on by pregnancy related symptoms in men?

Men need attention too when their partner gets pregnant. Pregnancy, the several physical changes, medical attention in the form of pills and drugs, tests and scans and an erratic sleep routine followed by delivery that is often unpredictable, can be overwhelming for dad’s-to-be as well. The following can be tried by both partners:

- Mum-to-be is obviously going through a life changing phenomena when pregnant. Her body is changing, she is gaining weight, her health is going through several issues and she is nurturing a little one who is solely dependent on mum-to-be. In spite of all this she should take efforts at being emphatic to her partner and try to pay attention to his concerns as well. Dad-to-be on his end is often trying hard to be a sympathetic partner and walking with his partner each step of the way in this entire journey of pregnancy.

- Parents-to-be must talk to each other and address their concerns and seek medical help wherever required to ease pregnancy and pregnancy related syndromes.

- Don’t just let your doctor be the one point solution to all concerns related to pregnancy.

Both partners must read up as much as they can about pregnancy and join a pregnancy related groups that they can and this awareness will definitely help them during the course of the nine months.

- Pregnant couples can try and do more activities together. Understandably pregnancy can be physically limiting but in spite of this there are several other activities that can be found to do together such as a spa session, shopping for baby, quiet dinners before baby comes in, watch an old classic movie at a drive-in theater or may be even go on a babymoon!

- Taking some time off from work (wherever feasible), catching up with old pals and spending quality time with families can be rejuvenating and assuring to say the least.

Pregnancy can be a very trying time for dads-to-be. They may not admit it but there is a lot of fear and anxiety that comes with pregnancy and an expanding brood. If you think that you are suffering from any pregnancy related symptoms, then seek medical attention and advice immediately. Mums-to-be should make every effort possible to be empathetic to their partner and give them some time off with may be friends or other fathers-to-be. This will do a world of good and help build a healthier relationship between the parents-to-be.

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