Pregnancy is an emotional time for women. Hormones are but one small part of the massive changes occurring in a woman’s body and about to occur in her social world. Pregnancy is a time when a woman is more vulnerable than ever, a time when she needs the love and support of her partner and her village – the community of family and friends that she belongs to. So if you are pregnant and feeling stressed or disconnected from a larger community, seek help. Getting all the support you need is important for your health and your baby’s well-being.
Pregnancy can also be an emotional time for men. In highly emotionally attuned couples, it is not uncommon for men whose wives are pregnant to experience real physical ailments – things like colds, stomach upsets, unintentional weight gain, irritability, nervousness, inability to concentrate, headache, restlessness, fatigue and insomnia during various trimesters of pregnancy and the early postpartum period. Anthropologists have long known of this phenomenon, called couvade, but Western researchers have been slow to study it.
In American culture, the belief that only women experience hormonal changes with pregnancy and childbirth is deeply entrenched and hard to shake. But research shows that when couples conceive in the context of an emotionally intimate and mutually attuned relationship, men also experience hormonal changes during the pregnancy and after the birth. These hormonal changes in men seem to enhance or accelerate paternal involvement and responsiveness, but they also might contribute in some unknown way to paternal depression.