Yes, dads can get morning sickness too, and it's called couvade syndrome

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If you've got a sneaky suspicion you may be mirroring your pregnant wife's symptoms, you're right! (iStock)
If you've got a sneaky suspicion you may be mirroring your pregnant wife's symptoms, you're right! (iStock)

“It all started on the eve of my wife’s 30th birthday,” explains Lance.

“As we were having dinner, I told her that I’m starting to feel nauseous. I also had a bout of diarrhoea building up to the nausea… I assumed the diarrhoea was normal as I have a sensitive tummy,” he continued.

But he soon realised this was no ordinary stomach bug – it was so much worse.

“Morning sickness,” he calls it.

Couvade syndrome: “The involuntary manifestation of pregnancy in men”

The frequent trips to the loo, the pickle fish cravings, and the subsequent, but sometimes completely unrelated, nausea that follows when you’ve got a bun in the oven – these pregnancy symptoms can sometimes leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained.

But it’s all part and parcel of the pregnancy journey because your body’s working overtime with all the hormonal and physical changes causing that niggle in your tummy. I mean, you have a bun in the oven after all.

But that doesn’t explain then why, sometimes, men also seem to experience the nausea, back pain and, in extreme cases, even labour pains, when their partner’s pregnant. The occurrence is so common it’s actually been given a name – couvade syndrome – “an involuntary manifestation of pregnancy in men with a partner who is expecting a baby”, writes Arthur Brennan, senior lecturer in psychology, research ethics and statistics at Kingston University.

In his article he explains that while there is no medically recognised physical explanation for these phantom symptoms, there are hypothesised physiological reasons, as well as psychological, psychoanalytical and even psychosocial accounts.

Also read: When fathers get morning sickness

Some researchers believe that it may have to do with the man actually undergoing hormonal changes himself, as he responds to the chemical signals from his partner.

If you think about the fact that women reportedly often synchronise their menstrual cycles when they’ve been around one another for long periods of time, this makes sense.

But other research focusing on the psychological suggests it has to do with the bond between the baby and the expectant father, who may be feeling a newfound sense of responsibility and subsequent anxiety (hence the nausea), or the closeness between a man and his partner, whereby he takes on similar symptoms to the mother, which is also why it’s referred to as a “sympathetic pregnancy”.

We spoke to Lance George, one of our readers, who wrote in saying he's been experiencing pregnancy symptoms for a while now as his wife is 5 months along.

He told us all about the excitement, as well as the physical and emotional toll it's taken. So dads, here's what to expect when your wife's expecting:

What are all the symptoms you’ve been experiencing? What is the worst of the lot?

LANCE: “I have been waking up in the morning with morning sickness and nausea, and Saturday past, I threw up. I’ve been experiencing mood swings as I get annoyed and irritated easily about small things. The worst is definitely the morning sickness and nausea, though. At the beginning my wife had severe morning sickness and nausea, which lasted for almost 10 weeks (up until the end of the first trimester).

"Her symptoms have mostly stopped, apart from headaches, but I feel like we’re taking turns.”

Also see: Coping with pregnancy nausea and morning sickness

Are there any particular foods you haven’t been able to stomach lately?

“I cannot stomach a cheese burger. The thought of it and the smell makes me nauseous.”

But he admits to weird and wonderful pregnancy cravings. “I kind of have cravings for ginger, which I never ever enjoyed eating before. I have ginger tea, biscuits, soft drinks as well as sweets.”

Lance tells us that he and his wife are having their first child, so we have to ask:

How are you really feeling as you wait for your little one to arrive?

“I am over moon, filled with excitement and anxiousness wondering if I will be a good father,” he explains, adding that he has to think about many other worries, such as providing for his baby girl.

But, he says, “I cannot wait.”

"I also cannot wait for the nausea and morning sickness to go away! I have accepted it and I am moving on with this feeling," he jokes.

Have you experienced morning sickness, or any other phantom symptoms, as a result of your partner's pregnancy? 


Share your stories and questions with us via email at Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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