2 minute read

Pregnancy and Birth

The Woman's Partner

Although the majority of women throughout the world become pregnant through sexual intercourse with a male partner, some women have female partners, and some other women choose to be single parents. The available literature focuses primarily on reactions of the woman's male partner to her pregnancy.

A physician carefully monitors this pregnant women's health and the growth of her child. Pregnancy in urban areas typically involves the use of high technology, while in rural areas such equipment might not be used. PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC.

The male partner also may experience physical and psychological changes during the pregnancy. He may experience the same ambivalence as the woman once the pregnancy is confirmed. On the one hand, the male partner feels very pleased that he is capable of procreation, whereas on the other, he feels overwhelmed by the thought of his responsibility for his child.

Many of the physical and psychological changes experienced by the male partner, which are referred to as the couvade syndrome, are anexpression of rituals associated with various cultures. Physical changes that appear throughout the pregnancy include indigestion, nausea and/or vomiting, bloating, changes in appetite, food cravings, increased urination, constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, abdominal pain, backache, headache, toothache, difficult breathing, sensitivity to odors, skin rashes, itching, fatigue, leg cramps, unintentional weight gain, and even fainting spells. Psychological changes include changes in the man's feelings about his body, and such mood changes as irritability, restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, inability to concentrate, anxiety, depression, or conversely, an enhanced sense of well-being.

Interestingly, studies of men in Western cultures have shown that the presence or absence of a physiological or psychological change in the man is directly related to the presence or absence of that change in his pregnant partner. That is, if the pregnant woman experiences a particular physical or psychological change, her partner most likely will also experience that change. In contrast, if the pregnant woman does not experience a particular change, her partner most likely will also not experience that change.

Studies also have shown that men who are members of certain cultures, have blue collar jobs, have limited financial resources, had health problems before the pregnancy, and who feel very involved in the pregnancy may be especially susceptible to the development of the couvade syndrome. In contrast, men who do not develop the couvade syndrome may feel hostility about the pregnancy or, conversely, may feel a special empathy for the pregnant woman.

Several theories have been proposed to explain why the couvade syndrome develops. One theory proposes that the syndrome is a result of the man's unconscious envy of the woman's ability to create a child. Another theory proposes that the couvade syndrome is a result of the man's ambivalence about the pregnancy. Still another theory proposes that the couvade syndrome is a result of the man's identification with his pregnant partner. Research has not, however, supported any of these theories.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodPregnancy and Birth - Pregnancy, Physical And Psychological Changes Of Pregnancy, The Woman's Partner, Developmental Tasks Of Pregnancy