Sympathy Morning Sickness in Men

Contributor: Julie Kirk
Husband and wife both have morning sickness

Your partner's complaint of morning sickness during your pregnancy may puzzle you, however, it is a mystery to medical experts as well. The few studies on male pregnancy-related symptoms have failed to figure out a physiological explanation for them.

Overview of Morning Sickness for Guys

Morning sickness in men can be just nausea or include vomiting. The problem is not always confined to the morning but can come and go through the day. Symptoms tend to improve by the end of the first trimester, but some men have a recurrence during the third trimester and others have symptoms throughout their partner's pregnancy.

Couvade Syndrome

Male morning sickness can occur alone or as part of what's called the Couvade syndrome or "sympathetic pregnancy." Neither morning sickness in men nor the Couvade syndrome is recognized as a medical or mental health issue because experts don't agree that it's a valid problem.

Other symptoms of Couvade syndrome can vary but may include the following or a combination of the following: indigestion, food cravings, fatigue, breast enlargement, toothache, weight gain, hormonal fluctuations, insomnia, anxiety, depression and abdominal bloating.

Incidence

The symptoms of the Couvade syndrome is said to occur in men worldwide. A 1991 Canadian review quoted the worldwide incidence as 16-79%. The incidence varies around the world because of imprecise definition and data collection.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Men's Health showed that expectant fathers from Jordan experienced the highest rates of Couvade syndrome at 59.1%. This was the highest rate compared to the results of any previous studies. They believe this rate was so high due to the fact that Jordanian men have such a strong desire for children and commitment to family.

Demographics

A review published in the Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing states that pregnancy-related symptoms are more common in the following men:

  • Anxious
  • Black
  • Working class
  • Partner has an unplanned pregnancy

A study has shown that Couvade syndrome is often found in first-time fathers as well. Men felt uncertain or fearful about their new role as father and the responsibility that accompanies it and Couvade syndrome was their reactive response to the pregnancy.

How to Get Rid of Morning Sickness for Guys

Many of the standard and natural ways a pregnant woman can get relief from the physical symptoms of morning sickness can be applied to men as well. These include:

  • Crackers and bread are bland and starchy and will help tame and absorb stomach acid.
  • Ginger in any form such as ginger ale, ginger tea and fresh ginger. It will help neutralize stomach acid and relax stomach activity.
  • Drink lemon water or just smelling a freshly cut lemon will calm your nausea and upset stomach.
  • Peppermint tea will also provide relief for an upset stomach.
  • Try Sea-Bands. These bands are worn on each wrist and work by applying pressure on the specific acupressure point that is known to provide relief from nausea. There are no drugs or side effects when using this product.
  • Taking a Vitamin B6 supplement has been known to help with nausea.
  • Unisom may be used but may cause drowsiness. Benedryl may help as well.
Man and pregnant woman touching bellies

Other Options That May Help

Additional options for men dealing with Couvade syndrome include:

  • Anti-nausea medications such as Bonine, Dramamine and Emetrol are safe for men but are not recommended for pregnant women.
  • Utilizing yoga and/or meditation to help the men feel more relaxed and calm.
  • Therapy may be an option if there are anxiety or depression symptoms about the stress or fear of parenthood or any other preexisting or current issues.

Theories for Cause of the Symptoms

Investigators published a study of 282 British men with pregnancy-related symptoms in 2007 in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. The researchers concluded that the symptoms were valid, but they were unable to find a physiological explanation for them. One proposed theory is that they are "sympathy symptoms." Others propose a psychological or a hormonal basis.

Man and pregnant woman comparing bellies

Psychological Theory

The following psychological explanations have been considered but not proven:

  • Anxiety over the pregnancy.
  • Envy of a woman's ability to bear a child.
  • Ambivalence about his future role as a father.
  • Unresolved childhood conflicts.
  • Unresolved Oedipal conflict.
  • He sees the child as a rival for maternal affection.
  • Feeling guilt over getting their partner pregnant.
  • Feeling marginalized because he sees himself in a secondary role compared to the celebrated role of his pregnant partner.

There is some evidence that men who are more involved in his partner's pregnancy are more likely to have morning sickness and other symptoms of pregnancy.

Hormonal Theory

Some investigators propose that men might undergo hormonal changes during their partner's pregnancy that could explain male morning sickness or other symptoms of the Couvade Syndrome.

A 2000 study reported in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behavior found that expectant and new fathers had changes in their hormones to a similar degree as their pregnant partners when exposed to the sounds, smells, and visual cues of a newborn. In the study, men with more symptoms of Couvade Syndrome had a greater degree of hormonal changes during the pregnancy and just after delivery.

Further investigations are needed to find out if there is a hormonal basis for pregnancy symptoms in men.

Illness Support for Your Partner

When your partner tells you he is having morning sickness or other pregnancy-related symptoms similar to yours, you should be supportive. These symptoms may give him greater insight into some of your discomforts and supporting each other will only bring you closer during your pregnancy.

Sympathy Morning Sickness in Men