Macho – 9 months pregnant

23. November 2007

Not just gynecologists know that women get round during pregnancy. Men are suffering from pregnancy symptoms is less common knowledge. Behind it: The "Couvade-Syndrom". And it affects even tough guys.

If women are pregnant they might develop a number of symptoms. Reduced or increased appetite for specificdishes, stomach problems, nausea, constipation, headache, backache, depressionsand more can make their everyday life even more difficult. Gain in weight, acurving belly and a gain in bust measurement are the symptoms of a pregnancyvisible for everyone.

Puerperal of the man -maybe the genes

But what if the partner issuffering from similar symptoms such as gaining weight and even showing acurving of his belly? Then it seems as if he is a bit pregnant too. And that isnot a qaurter as rare as you would think. Obviously the majority of the futuredaddies are developing pregnancy symptoms. For a long time, the male pregnancysyndrome, psychiatrists call it the “Couvade-Syndrom” (couvade,French for to hatch), was only observed in humans. Last year Toni E. Zieglerand his colleagues at the Wisconsin National Primate Center and Department of Psychology of the University of Wisconsin-Madison,USA discovered that male callitrichidae becoming a father gained weight.Results were published by Biology Letters, the journal of the RoyalSociety. The researchers assume that the males build some reserves for theexhausting time after birth. Because the fathers of this species is at least asengaged in parental care as the mothers. From their study, the scientistsgather that evolutionary causes could be behind the symptoms in men.

Symptoms all the way tophantom pregnancy

The Couvade-Syndrom isneither rare nor new and has a long ethnological history. Especially inprimitive people, male symptoms and feelings during the pregnancy of thepartner are acted out in the most diverse ritual ways. Early last century, inthe Mediterranean region, men still held Couvade-rituals imitating the timebefore birth, birth itself and the puerperal even dressing like women. While nopathological significance is assigned to this ritual, nowadays some pregnantmen even need medical attention, thus proven by a British study of the St. George's University, London. 282 fathers-to-be, agesbetween 19 and 55, were examined during every stage of the pregnancy. Theresults were compared with a control group. Most men developed symptoms such asmood swings, morning sickness. Even phantom pregnancies with growing bellies appeared.Stomach cramps were the most frequent symptom. Except of the “false babybellies” which kept gaining after birth, the pregnancy symptoms got worse andculminated in the third trimester. After birth they slowly faded.

Feelings and hormones makemen pregnant

“These symptoms haven'tgot anything to do with razzle-dazzle” says the author of the study, ArthurBrennan. “In many cases, the men have no idea what is happening to them andhave to go through the symptoms involuntarily”. Though eleven of the men in thestudy had to seek medical attendance, the Couvade-syndrome is rather harmlessand does not have any pathological significance in most cases.

Apparently, the physicalpregnancy symptoms are caused by unconscious fears and aggressive feelings.Persons concerned most likely are hardly aware of feelings of rivalry and fearsof loss in this time of their lives and are seeking a valve for those feelings.A strong identification with the partner is unconscious as well. Perhaps thesymptoms could be understood as a demonstration of sympathy – which is thepositive interpretation of the syndrome. Should envy play a role, i. e. wombenvy, those feelings might seem a little less friendly. Then it would rather bea narcissistic disease resulting from the experienced inability.

Alongside all psyche,changes on a physical level can be verified as well. For example a study madein Bremen/Germany on 150 parents-to-be showed that during pregnancy men gainedan average of four kilograms and showed physical symptoms. Even hormonalchanges seem to play a part in daddies-to-be. This showed a study of the Memorial University of Newfoundland. The blood samples of mothers- andfathers-to-be taken before and after birth revealed that fathers display achanged level of Cortisol, Prolactin and Testosterone as well. Root of the symptoms could be thepheromones of the woman and the man reacting to them – whether biological- andsurrogate father.

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