Give Your Partner Labour Pains this Christmas

Until relatively recently, the idea of partners experiencing sympathy pregnancy symptoms was ridiculed. However, nowadays sympathetic pregnancy even has an officially recognised term – couvade syndrome – and is understood to describe any situation in which a male partner to some extent mirrors his pregnant partner’s condition by experiencing pregnancy-like symptoms.

However, the condition is not yet fully understood and doctors cannot recognise if it is a physical or psychological phenomenon. What is certain is that many partners report experiencing couvade syndrome and that their experiences vary, although most report symptoms becoming strongest during the first and third trimesters.

Whether they are experiencing bloating, nausea, changes in appetite, cramps, aches or anxiety and depression, men affected by couvade syndrome will tell you that their symptoms certainly feel real.

What mothers-to-be think of couvade syndrome, however, is another matter, although it is likely that each individual mother will have a different view. For example, some may welcome the “sympathy” as a useful opportunity for their partners to develop empathy, insight and sensitivity to their pregnancies while others may just find it annoying and think, “Well, I’m the one actually carrying and ultimately giving birth to the baby. Do you really have to get in on the act too, attention-seeker?”

But for dads-to-be who are looking to take the sympathy pregnancy one step further, there are now companies offering a childbirth experience for dads. Before you wince at the mere idea, rest easy – these companies claim to offer a “light-hearted” insight into pregnancy.

For example, as part of their “Labour Pain Experience”, Babyface in Bristol gives dads the chance to wear a 27lb weighted bump while they experience trying to perform everyday domestic tasks. The exercise is finished with half an hour attached to the firm’s sinister-sounding Labour Pain Machine (this in fact is just a TENS machine cranked up to its highest and most uncomfortable setting).

The company says that the experience cannot of course fully replicate the reality of pregnancy and childbirth for mothers, but it should allow dads to develop “a higher level of empathy and a better understanding of what mothers go through”.

So, mums-to-be, what are you waiting for? What better Christmas gift could there possibly be for a man than the experience of pregnancy and childbirth? Forget new socks, a fancy new drill or a bottle of whisky this Christmas. Why not give dad what he may or may not have always wanted: backache and a vague approximation of labour pain?