Men really do suffer pregnancy symptoms in sympathy with their partners, a study has shown.
Fathers-to-be endure cramps, back pain, mood swings, food cravings, morning sickness, extreme tiredness, depression, irritability, fainting and toothache, researchers found.
Some even develop swollen stomachs that look like a “baby bump”, according to the largest study of its kind in Britain. And the longer the pregnancy goes on, the worse men’s symptoms get.
A group of 282 expectant fathers aged from 19 to 55 were monitored throughout their partners’ pregnancies by specialists at St George’s, University of London.
The findings were compared to a control group of 281 men whose partners were not pregnant. They experienced none of the symptoms.
Stomach cramps were the most common complaint.
One man told researchers: “My stomach pains were very much like a build-up of a woman’s contraction as she’s giving birth. They started mild and then got stronger and stronger and stronger.”
Another claimed: “I think I was in more pain than she was. It seemed like my pain was worse.”
A third said he had cravings: “I was constantly hungry and had an unstoppable craving for chicken kormas and poppadams – even in the early hours of the morning.”
Eleven of the men sought help from their GPs and underwent tests but no physical causes were found.
The phenomenon where men suffer sympathy symptoms is called Couvade Syndrome.
The study’s author, Dr Arthur Brennan of the University of London’s Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, said: “Some people may perceive this as men trying to get in on the act but far from being attention-seeking, these symptoms are involuntary.
“Often the men haven’t got a clue about what’s happening to them. Doctors don’t recognise Couvade Syndrome. There’s no medical diagnosis.
“Yet this research proves that Couvade Syndrome really exists – the results speak for themselves.”
Dr Val Collington, the head of the school of midwifery at St George’s, said the results matched her experience.
She said: “Midwives might not be surprised at these findings. One midwife told me that, in her experience, men often complain of nausea during the early stage of their partner’s pregnancy.”