What Happens to Dads During Pregnancy

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It makes sense that mothers-to-be tend to inadvertently monopolize the spotlight during pregnancy. After all, the act of conceiving, carrying and bearing a child causes all sorts of significant changes in a woman’s body. From weight gain to hormonal tsunamis, morning sickness to digestive difficulties, having a child is an incomparable, life-altering process.

As monumental as all of this is for the mother, it can have equally powerful physical and psychological effects on the father-to-be. These effects are not as frequently discussed or dealt with, but still warrant attention.

  • Weight gain

Yes, that’s right. Although fathers never have to carry around a giant amniotic sack full of fluid and a rapidly growing life form, they are still prone to weight gain during pregnancy. A British study [http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/men-who-swell-with-pregnancy/?_r=0] found that men gain an average of 6.36 kilos during this period. This might at first seem odd, but makes sense when considered in a larger medical context. For men and women, pregnancy can be a particularly stressful time. Since partners tend to eat together, men may find themselves unintentionally consuming more food to match their partner’s growing appetite. Some men in the study acknowledged that they wanted their partner to feel more comfortable with their own weight. Unfortunately, unlike women, men have no easy biological way to shed the extra kilos once the child arrives. While women burn a substantial number of calories simply by breastfeeding, fathers may need to work the weight off the old-fashioned way.

  • Sympathy symptoms.

Some dads-to-be are so tuned into what their partner is feeling that they begin to experience similar symptoms themselves, despite the lack of an actual fetus inside of them. This phenomenon, known as Couvade Syndrome, can include symptoms such as morning sickness, back pains, cramps and, in rare cases, even swollen or distended stomachs. Though these symptoms may be psychosomatic, their effects are real and distinctly felt. Not all fathers experience this, but it is common enough that researchers are looking into the matter.

  • Mood swings.

There may be no surges of estrogen to blame, but men can also get pretty moody during this period. The reason some dad’s get moody is less biological and more psychological though. The realization that a huge new responsibility is looming just around the corner can make some dads anxious, which in turn leads to mood swings. If you’re feeling on edge, take some time to reflect about what your specific concerns are. Be open with your partner about how you are feeling.


  1. The New York Times: Men Gain Weight During Pregnancy. Available from: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/men-who-swell-with-pregnancy/?_r=0. Accessed on April 5, 2015.
  2. BBC News: Health – Men suffer from phantom pregnancy. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6751709.stm. Accessed on April 5, 2015.

Photo Credit: CaptBrando via Compfight cc


Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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