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The Pregnant Man is Not a Myth

Did you know that men can get “pregnant” too?

I’m not talking transgender. I’m talking about your husband, or partner, or maybe even your father if he was unusually evolved for his era.

A documentary screening tonight on Australian TV investigates the idea of “male pregnancy” and its myths and realities, including the idea that these sympathetic pregnancy symptoms may actually help make men better fathers.

Read on for a clip and a fascinating interview about the making of the documentary.

You may have heard of Couvade Syndrome, the official name for for the male pregnancy phenomenon. The makers of the documentary surveyed Australian men and found that one in three men are affected by this syndrome, which had previously been thought to be quite rare. To be classified in the Couvade group, men had to report experiencing 8 or more sympathetic pregnancy symptoms.

Weight gain was most commonly reported, but men can also experience interrupted sleep, exhaustion, abdominal bloating, and a variety of food cravings. The filmmaker describes vegan men who crave meat, healthy eaters who yearn for white bread, and even men who experience morning sickness.

The mechanism that causes Couvade is unknown, but hormones are almost definitely a factor. Testosterone levels change in men during pregnancy, especially around the time of birth. And it seems that a surge of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production in new mothers, may be tied to the development of close bonds between fathers and newborns.

Much of the hormonal research has been done on animals. But if sympathetic pregnancy is as common as this documentary suggests, we can expect a lot more attention paid to this phenomenon in the future!

We can’t see the whole show in the US, but here’s a great interview with the filmmaker, and below is a clip.

photo: Keith HInkle/flickr

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