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No. 133: JAN-FEB 2001

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Couvade Chemistry

Medical history records numerous instances where the husband of a pregnant woman exhibits some of the symptoms of pregnancy, such as morning sickness. This sympathetic reaction

is called the "couvade." This phenomenon can be partially explained biochemically, but psychosomatic factors are obviously involved.

Researchers find that a father-to-be's estrogen (female hormone) levels rise markedly -- even exceeding that of his wife -- as the time-of-delivery approaches. Interestingly, the father's testosterone levels are also elevated prior to birth but fall immediately afterward. As the wife's day-of-delivery approaches, the levels of prolactin, which plays a key role in breast-feeding, increase in both husband and wife.

(Rubin, Rita; "Dads Get 'Nurturing' Hormones after Birth," Chicago Sun-Times, June 20, 2000. Cr. J. Cieciel)

Comment. Male lactation, which is rare in humans, is probably associated with this increased production of prolactin. Male lactation is also known in other mammals, such as fruit bats. (See SF#93)

The mind is driving all of these chemical changes in the father-to-be. The question is HOW? And, maybe WHY?

From Science Frontiers #133, JAN-FEB 2001. 2001 William R. Corliss

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