Sympathetic pregnancy is a thing. A hilarious thing — that’s best avoided.
Look, women are lunatics at the best of times. So, whether or not you like her “with a bit of meat on”, there’s a good chance she will 1) not believe you, and 2) not personally enjoy the extra kilos padding out her frame in the latter months of pregnancy.
Despite the wondrous, womanly, maternal joy she’s been anticipating.
If you are honest, insensitive and/or a terrible person, you may think: “Great — that will motivate her to get back to her sexy pre-bub size!”
This may be true but is best not mentioned, because shut up, and the ‘aspirational’ supermodel moms on her Instagram feed (Hot! Insectine! No meat on ever!) are already stressing her about this.
The uncomfortable truth is that pregnancy ruins women’s bodies. This is an unfair deal by evolution and any talk of ‘loving your bump’, or that ‘serene glow’ is — at least as far as my partner was concerned — grasping, sisterhood propaganda.
And so, if you are a halfway decent person/partner/ human, it is natural to be sensitive to your pregnant lady’s feelings.
It is equally natural — says science! — to chub up in solidarity.
“Pass the Tabasco sauced M&Ms”
Yes: sympathetic pregnancies are a thing. And they suck. Not as much as actual pregnancies, probably (who can tell, really?) but they’re pretty shitty nonetheless.
The official term for it is “Couvade syndrome”.
A 2007 study by researchers at St George’s University in London, examined 282 fathers-to-be, and found a range of symptoms that include “cramps, back pain, mood swings, food cravings, morning sickness, fatigue, depression, fainting, insomnia and toothache.”
“In more extreme cases”, they noted, “men developed swollen stomachs that looked like a baby bump.”
Except, obviously, there was no baby in there. They got fat.
In 2010, the researchers recreated this study in Australia and found that 31 per cent of Aussie dads experienced the phenomenon — compared to just a quarter of Englishmen — with 26 percent fattening up, and 7 percent suffering “abdominal distension”.
This, obviously, is hilarious — if it is happening to one of your mates. But it sucks if it’s befallen you.
The ‘Dominos’ effect
Even if you’re not cursed by Couvade, when she’s piling on the kilos, it’s easy to add another few notches to your own belt — notches that will be a nightmare to shed in the grim weeks, or months or, god forbid — years after birth.
During this time, the gym is a distant memory, sleep disappears, and you’re eating from the freezer, or biscuits for dinner, or Domino’s is doing $5 pizzas before 9pm and you’re so out of time that you have to choose between eating dinner or taking a dump.
At least, that was my experience.
I put on weight, sure, but I also changed shape. Less muscle. More fat. Like a footy pie. But I was not as delicious. I was also not at the footy. But I was having my ears rung by a shouty pink chap who ejects turds at Super Soaker pace, firehose capacity and firetruck volume.
The weight fell off my wife post-birth, because a) breastfeeding, and b) 3.77kg of her pre-delivery weight was repurposed to turn breast milk into, and then eject, the aforementioned tonnage of turds.
She also birthed a human. So there’s that.
Spoiler: I did not.
Preventing the early onset of ‘Dad Bod’
The answer is planning. Which sounds stupid, because it’s obvious. But almost all fitness advice is.
“I learned how to cook meals in bulk so I could always have healthy meals that taste good and cover all my macros,” says personal trainer, and user of terms like ‘macros’, Vince Del Monte.
“You can cook up to a week’s worth of food in about the same time you cook a day’s worth of food when life is really busy. Having nutrient-dense foods ready to eat at any given time is absolutely crucial if you want to avoid the fat gain and muscle stagnation typical of new fathers.”
Holdfast during the 3rd trimester
“No matter how uncomfortable or miserable your wife begins to feel towards the end of her pregnancy, you can’t take her place,” says Jonathan Finkel, author of The Dadvantage: The Fitness Plan For New Fathers.
“You should definitely feel sympathetic, but you should definitely not feel guilty. Of course, do whatever you can to help your wife out and make her feel comfortable (foot rubs come to mind), but you are allowed to enjoy physical activity even though your wife can’t.”
Take the easy kills
Post-birth, Finkel recommends doing push-ups whenever you can, such as while you wait for the shower to heat up. Drink only water. Download a 7-minute interval-training workout app—of which there are dozens—or grab the totally ad-free version belonging to the New York Times from here.
All of this will help you. And that — even with her accelerated return to fitness if your child is on the teat — will help your partner as well… especially the food prep side of things.
Finally, if a mate is experiencing sympathetic pregnancy, you should absolutely take the piss out of him… for his own good.
“For a lot of guys, [Couvade] symptoms spontaneously resolve in the face of male peer pressure,” says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Norman Duerbeck, who as an American, is not a natural pisstaker and should thus be believed.