'Pregnant' Kerala man throws light on the lesser known 'couvade syndrome'

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A 52-year-old Kerala man believes he is pregnant, sparks debate about the lesser known 'couvade syndrome' or sympathetic pregnancy in India

A bizzare story has been doing the rounds lately. A 52-year-old Kerala man spooked his family by announcing that he was pregnant! So much was his conviction that the family had to eventually take him to a psychiatrist.

It was reported that the post-graduate unemployed father of two complained of abdomen pain and believed that he was 'carrying a child.' He also apparently refused to believe that men cannot carry children and insisted that he could 'feel the baby kicking' inside.

He also allegedly skipped labour-intensive work and insisted on taking bed rest and also curbed his food intake, prompting his family to suspect his psychological condition.

This strange incident has brought to light a less talked about and known psychological condition called the couvade syndrome.

What is a couvade syndrome?

The Couvade syndrome, also known as sympathetic pregnancy, is a condition wherein an otherwise health man or person—whose partner is pregnant—experiences common pregnancy-related symptoms. We spoke to Dr Rahul Manchanda, Gynaecological Endoscopic Surgeon, Delhi, to further understand this syndrome. 

"It is not a common problem but it does happen globally. Here, the patient undergoes physical and psyhological changes akin to a pregnant woman. This usually happens during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy," sayss Dr Manchanda, listing the two primary symptoms.

  • Physical symptoms: Changes in the body including constant feeling of nausea, weight gain, heart burn, abdominal pain, appetite changes, bloating, toothaches, leg cramps, respiratory problems, backaches, genital and urinal irritations.
  • Psychological symptoms: These symptoms include anxiety, depression, restlessness and reduced libido.

What happens when the baby arrives?

"Since the couvade syndrome is a psychological condition, once the baby arrives it may help reduce the anxiety and there won't be any physical stimulus to cause this behaviour. However, it does not mean that it may completely go away and may need immediately psychiatric attention," says Dr Manchanda.

He adds that in such a case there are two most important steps of intervention that are needed:

  • Knowledge: It is important to know that one might go through this syndrome during their partner's actual pregnancy. "Knowledge is the key here. If you know about this syndrome, there is a likely chance it will be diagnosed and treated just as fast," says Dr Manchanda.
  • Keep a tab on the symptoms: If your partner is exhibiting the common symptoms of pregnancy, there is a likely chance they have couvade syndrome, similar to the case of the 52-year-old Kerala man who spooked his family.
  • Immediate counselling: Once the diagnoses is made, you must immediately take the patient to a psychiatrist and treat this condition.

"Many gyneacologists and experts are sometimes unaware of this condition, which is also sometimes referred to as pseudocyesis, where the patient exhibits signs of pregnancy except for the presence of foetus," says Dr Manchanda.

He suggests that in such a state the patient must be sent for immediate medical intervention, and can overcome the syndrome with relevant psychological support.

Watch: The pregnant man? Sounds unreal? Watch it to believe us

(Image for representational purposes only. Courtesy: Mensexmd)

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Written by

Deepshikha Punj

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