Sympathy Pains: Fact of Fiction?

Have you ever heard of a man having sympathy pains when his wife is pregnant? It may sound somewhat curious or even silly to other people. Why would a man actually experience comparable symptoms when he has few physical characteristics similar to those of a woman? Is it all in his head?

The term for sympathy symptoms is “couvades.” It is quite real and does not only relate to pregnancy. Parents often feel pain when their children are in pain, as do other people in close and loving relationships. It makes sense if you think about it. How many of us feel a sense of grief when people we care about experience loss? Why would it be so different for physical issues?

When it comes to pregnancy, researchers have discovered physiological phenomenon, such as lower testosterone and heightened estrogen in men whose partners are pregnant, especially when the couple is very close. This occurs later in pregnancy, and may be nature’s way of decreasing a man’s sexual appetite near the time of birth as well as softening some of the more aggressive masculine qualities as a man not only cares for his somewhat more vulnerable spouse but also prepares to welcome his new child into the world.

Some of it may be emotional as well, and there really aren’t any hard rules or explanations. We just know that it can and does happen. In some cases, sympathy pains or other symptoms are present during the actual labor and delivery. Many men have been observed tightening their facial muscles and appearing to “push” while their mates deliver.

Some men also have sympathy cravings. My husband gained weight right along with me during my pregnancies. I also saw pain in his face during labor (although I wasn’t really paying much attention during delivery!).

However, no one should judge a man who does not develop sympathy symptoms. It doesn’t necessarily mean he cares any less, it may just mean he has greater control over his emotions or expressions. That isn’t always bad either, as it helps him stay strong for you and some women need strength more than they need sympathy. Everybody is different.

I find couvades to be a very interesting human trait. What do you think?

Other articles on marriage and children:

And Baby Makes Three

A Couple of Parents

Parents: Birthdays Are For Us, Too

Marriage, Kids, and PDA

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