Secondhand pregnancy?


Looking back on photos from when I was first born, it was clear to me that my dad had packed on a few pounds since my arrival. My mom always joked saying, "Your father is the one who gained all the weight, not me!" I laughed along, not knowing that this could be possible. Could this be true? Could my father have been the one to suffer from the cravings and weight gain? Here's what I found.

Couvade syndrome, or sympathetic pregnancy, is a phrase used to describe a man who experiences the pregnancy-related symptoms as their spouse while she is pregnant. Common symptoms include nausea, heartburn, bloating, cravings, toothaches, and appetite changes. A man's sleep cycle, anxiety, and depression rate may also fluctuate. These symptoms show during the first and third trimesters and the men can show any of the suggested symptoms mentioned.

Although there is no clear-cut explanation for this, studies have compared a few separate factors: hormones and love. The hormonal changes in pregnant women were compared to the changes of that in their spouses. The study found that these changes are, indeed, found in some men throughout their partner's pregnancy. Love and emotion play part in this syndrome because the pregnancy symptoms would also cause some men to create a stronger emotional connection with their wife. 

How can this syndrome be treated? Couples are encouraged to speak highly and optimistically of their baby's future in order to release any fear or anxiety of becoming a parent. Doctors also agree that communication is essential. Most importantly, "experts agree that the most effective treatment is to make the man feel like he is an active and vital part of the process," according to one of my sources online. However, other areas of the world handle couvade syndrome differently. For example, according to Leopoldo Villela, studies conducted in Toluca, Mexico in the 160s suggest other routines. Men of this area would care for the soon-to-be father by performing ritual in which the father would be covered in his wife's skirts, then rocked back and forth while he acted like a baby. This was a way to soothe the father's fears and anxiety, and ultimately relieve the symptoms. The ritual performance would end with dinner. 

How common is this exactly? According to an online survey conducted in 2009, five thousand male respondents admitted to eating more throughout their wife's pregnancy. Possible factors included eating out more frequently, easier access to sweets and treats, the willingness to eat unhealthy with their partner in order to make her feel better, and being served larger portions by their spouse. Ironically, only thirty percent of these men who show weight gain joined their partner in dieting and exercise following the birth of their child.

My dad gained a decent amount of weight during my mom's pregnancy and did not lose this weight until about three years ago, which is crazy considering I'm nineteen years old. I wasn't aware of how common or serious this syndrome was!

What I find compelling about this situation is that when a female ingests these meals, some of it is dealt to the child. Also, when giving birth, the female loses much of the weight. However, men hold onto this weight if they are not exercising throughout their spouses pregnancy. This explains why my dad packed on twice as much as my mom did, and why the extra pounds remained for so much longer!


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