What is the best day of your life? Ask any parent, and they might say the birth of a child. It’s a joyous occasion characterized by new beginnings and memories. This brings me to a story about my friends Ryan and Julie.
You see, they are ecstatic to be expecting their first child in the next few months. They couldn’t be any happier or excited for the big day. However, as they’ve learned, the birth of a child isn’t without its challenges.
For instance, the first clue that Julie was pregnant was morning sickness—a major symptom associated with pregnancy. Julie describes it as the “worst nausea and vomiting” of her life.
The problem was that Ryan seemed to be experiencing the exact morning sickness symptoms as Julie. How could this be?
Morning sickness in men is actually a symptom of sympathetic pregnancy. It is where the father experiences pregnancy symptoms without being pregnant. I assured Julie that, “yes, it is a real thing,” and, “no, he is not faking it.”
The term is called Couvade syndrome.
What Is Male Morning Sickness?
Julie remained skeptical and wanted proof. I referred her to some of the evidence I’ve found over the years.
In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, a group of 282 expectant fathers were monitored at St. George’s, University of London, throughout their partners’ pregnancies. Researchers found that the men experienced many of the symptoms associated with pregnancy, including morning sickness. Other symptoms they experienced included mood swings, food cravings, back pain, extreme fatigue, cramps, irritability, fainting, and depression. Some of the men even gained weight, which appeared similar to the “baby bump” that expecting mothers experience.
Male morning sickness is most common during the first trimester of pregnancy; however, the symptom can be experienced throughout the pregnancy (even as late as the third trimester). In the U.S., Couvade syndrome varies between 25% and 52% of men with pregnant spouses. It is also estimated that 61% of men in Thailand, 20% in Sweden, and between 11% and 50% of men in the U.K. experience symptoms associated with Couvade syndrome.
Causes of Morning Sickness in Men
A 2013 study published in the journal Medical Science Monitor examined Couvade syndrome in 143 expecting fathers. The study found that emotionally sensitive men may experience the physical symptoms of their pregnant female partners, including personal distress, weight gain, appetite changes, vomiting, and flatulence.
In other words, Couvade syndrome is caused by the emotional rollercoaster that a sensitive soon-to-be dad experiences. Emotional disorders of anxiety, fear, and depression can all induce stress on the digestion system to cause nausea and vomiting. After all, there are two people involved in a pregnancy, and having a baby can be stressful, even for the father.
What are other male morning sickness causes that relate solely to vomiting and nausea? Although Couvade syndrome is the likely culprit of male morning sickness when a man’s partner is pregnant, it is also important to rule out other possible causes of the symptom such as food intolerances, lack of sleep, indigestion, low blood sugar, anemia, a cold or cough, a peptic ulcer, and drinking too much the night before.
Symptoms of Male Morning Sickness
As mentioned, the main symptoms of male morning sickness are nausea and vomiting. Nausea is that unpleasant feeling people get in their stomachs before they have the urge to vomit. The term morning sickness is a little misleading since the symptoms can be experienced throughout the day.
With Couvade syndrome, men will experience nausea when their pregnant spouses experience the same symptoms. Sometimes vomiting is very frequent with male morning sickness. In these cases, the esophagus can be torn, and the person may find blood in their vomit. In this case, treatment is required immediately. The symptoms of morning sickness are also thought to be more severe in the late stages of pregnancy.
Besides morning sickness, Couvade syndrome symptoms include disrupted hormone levels, disturbances in sleep patterns, nose bleeds, postpartum depression, labor pains, restlessness, reduced sex drive, indigestion, bloating, abdominal pain, respiratory problems, backaches, leg cramps, appetite changes, toothaches, itchy skin, and genital or urinary irritations. The symptoms of Couvade syndrome and male morning sickness will often go away after the baby is born.
Natural Ways to Treat Male Morning Sickness
What is the typical male morning sickness treatment? The person should avoid solid foods for at least six hours until vomiting has ended. The most common medical treatment for relieving nausea and vomiting is called antiemetics. Pepto-Bismol (Bismuth subsalicylate) is the most common brand name, and it works by protecting the lining of the stomach. The most common side effects associated with antiemetics include constipation, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), darkened tongue or stools, and drowsiness.
Luckily, I told Ryan and Julie that there are also several natural morning sickness treatments for both men and women. Here are a few of my suggestions:
Ginger is an effective natural remedy for treating morning sickness in men since ginger enhances the secretion of digestive enzymes that help neutralize stomach acid. It is also a very good antiemetic that prevents nausea and vomiting. A study published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia in 2000 found that one gram of ginger could help treat morning sickness over a placebo. A 2014 meta-analysis published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine also suggested that using ginger for at least four days is an effective natural treatment for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Ginger can be taken in gelatin capsules, crystallized, candied, or tea form.
Lemon and other citrus fruits are also known to reduce nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness. According to a double-blinded, randomized, controlled study published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal in 2014, inhalation of lemon essential oil can be an effective therapy for reducing vomiting and nausea linked with pregnancy or morning sickness. The study included 100 pregnant women; however, lemon juice and lemon essential oil are considered equally effective for men with morning sickness symptoms.
Peppermint is also considered great for a male morning sickness treatment, and it can help relax the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. Peppermint tea or peppermint oil are both great ways to treat morning sickness in men. A double-blind, randomized, controlled study published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal in 2012 found that peppermint essential oil reduced the severity of nausea in 60 pregnant women who experienced vomiting and nausea associated with pregnancy. Peppermint and peppermint oil could also help male morning sickness. It is a good idea to use a cotton swab to apply a few drops of peppermint oil onto your gums.
4. Low-glycemic diet
A person’s appetite and eating habits may be inconsistent during pregnancy, and they give in to food cravings like sugary snacks. Pretty much nothing is off the menu. This means your blood sugar is likely low in the morning and during other parts of the day, which can cause nausea and vomiting. This is why it is important to eat a nutrient-dense diet with plenty of low-glycemic vegetables and other foods. Low-glycemic index foods have a glycemic index of 55 or less, and contain foods such as quinoa, green lentils, and dark green leafy vegetables.
5. Homeopathic remedies
Homeopathic remedies are also perfect for male morning sickness since they are known for their effectiveness without any side effects. Colchicum is a great homeopathic remedy whether it is for female or male morning sickness. It is a great remedy for people who feel the need to vomit or faint at the mere thought, smell, or sight of food. Iris versicolor is considered the appropriate homeopathic remedy when nausea and vomiting are worse between the hours of two and three a.m. Other homeopathic remedies used for male morning sickness include ipecacuanha, nux vomica, lacticum acidum, sepia, pulsatilla, tabacum, and veratrum album and symphoricarpos.
6. Herbal remedies
Besides ginger and peppermint, there are other effective herbal remedies to relieve nausea and vomiting associated with male morning sickness. Other herbs for morning sickness include chamomile, meadowsweet, fennel, cloves, marshmallow, avens, black horehound, cayenne, cinnamon, galangal, rosemary, comfrey, raspberry leaf, anise, Iceland moss, and false unicorn root.
7. Essential oils
There are some great essential oils that make a great male morning sickness treatment. The list of essential oils used for nausea and vomiting include lemon balm, French basil, cardamom, allspice, German and Roman chamomile, cascarilla bark, coriander, clove bud, ginger, sweet fennel, lavender, lavandin, peppermint, spearmint, black pepper, rose, nutmeg, sandalwood, and rosewood.
8. Other natural remedies for male morning sickness
Other ways men can try to help relieve male morning sickness symptoms include acupuncture and acupressure, brewer’s yeast, and supplementing with zinc, and a vitamin B-complex formula (especially one containing vitamin B6). The Bach Flower remedy called Rescue Remedy can also help you reduce stress associated with male morning sickness. Performing light exercises like walking or restorative yoga can help relieve the hormonal activity related to morning sickness and Couvade syndrome.
Here are a few tips a man with morning sickness should keep in mind:
- It is very important to drink plenty of filtered water and natural liquids. For example, homemade bone broths are great at relieving vomiting, nausea, and other digestive issues.
- Avoid spicy, fried, and fatty foods.
- Avoid brushing your teeth right after mealtime. This can potentially invoke nausea and vomiting.
- Eat small meals and take your time when drinking or eating since eating too fast may also produce male morning sickness symptoms.
When to See a Doctor
There are certain circumstances when you should see a doctor about male morning sickness, including:
- When vomiting is bloody, dark or looks like coffee grounds.
- You are vomiting for more than 24 hours, or you vomit three or more times each day.
- Urination has not occurred for eight hours or more.
- Dehydration occurs and you experience a dry mouth.
- Other symptoms include headaches, a stiff neck, acute stomach pain or sunken eyes.
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Sources for Today’s Article:
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