Background: The aim of the conducted study was to analyze the phenomenon of Couvade Syndrome amongst fathers expecting their children in Poland. The authors examined the frequency of couvade symptoms in male subjects as well as their associations with male empathy.
Material and methods: The research involved 143 expectant fathers. All subjects attended antenatal classes, and their female partners were in their third trimester. Before the start of classes, participants were asked to fill in the following questionnaires: a survey for measurement of Couvade Syndrome (which includes a set of 16 symptoms identified by Lipkin and Lamb (19) and translated into Polish), and the Empathic Sensitiveness Scale (SWE). Although participants, on average, did not experience Couvade Syndrome, they did experience symptoms that are commonly linked with the syndrome, namely those related to weight (weight gain, changes in appetite and flatulence).
Results: The results indicate that expectant fathers experience couvade symptoms related to weight (weight gain, changes in appetite and flatulence). The only empathic component that positively correlates with Couvade Syndrome is personal distress, i.e. the tendency to take on the negative emotions of others. Demographic characteristics are not associated with Couvade Syndrome.
Conclusions: The frequency of couvade symptoms in male subjects is associated with male empathy. In other words, men who are emotionally sensitive or prone to distress may physiologically experience the pregnancy of their female partners, which can be interpreted as compathy.