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J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 1990 Sep;4(2):33-42.

Expectant fathers' response to pregnancy: review of literature and implications for research in high-risk pregnancy.


It is evident that couvade syndrome exists in the industrialized culture. However, there are questions about the occurrence of couvade given the large range of reported incidence. Clinton found no difference in the occurrence of symptoms between expectant fathers and nonexpectant men throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy. Differences were noted, however, in the types and perceived seriousness of symptoms between these men, with expectant fathers reporting more colds, unintentional weight gain, insomnia, and restlessness. Significant differences in health deviation were reported by the new fathers during the immediate postpartum period. These new fathers experienced fatigue, emotional and cognitive disturbances, and headaches. Strickland's work did not provide comparative estimates of the incidence of couvade syndrome. The focus of this study was to explore the nature of pregnancy-related symptoms among expectant fathers. These expectant fathers reported key symptoms during the second trimester of pregnancy with increasing occurrence during the last trimester of pregnancy. Expectant fathers most likely to experience couvade were anxious, black, working class men experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Anxiety, suppression of hostility, and identification with the pregnant partner were explored as predictors of the occurrence of couvade syndrome. Anxiety is likely to occur in expectant fathers because of financial concerns and changes in relationships and roles. Feelings of protectiveness toward the partner and fetus/infant also can be anxiety producing for the expectant father. The developmental tasks described by Duvall and Penticuff were predicated on the transitional nature of becoming a parent. Each task depicts the inherent change in both structure and function of the male's family role which is influenced by society and the family unit. May proposed that expectant fathers have unique styles that predict the degree of involvement with the partner and the pregnancy. Phases of father involvement, described by May, and the father's laboring for relevance, described by Jordan, are conceptually consistent with the developmental tasks identified by Duvall. Each phase or subprocess is sequential, marked by intrapersonal and interpersonal characteristics. Movement through these tasks, phases, or subprocesses is dependent upon accepting the reality of the pregnancy, cultural norms, and society's expectations of fathers. Herzog identified degrees of involvement among fathers whose partners delivered prematurely. In this retrospective inquiry, fathers with a high degree of involvement were more likely to experience symptoms of couvade syndrome than were fathers who were less involved. All fathers in the study, regardless of the involvement, reported being fearful of the unknown outcome and experiencing grief over the preterm delivery.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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