I’m Pregnant! … Oh, By The Way, I’m a Man

Transgender pregnancy Couvade syndrome

Most of us learned that having a baby more or less went like this: man meets woman, woman gets pregnant, woman delivers baby. But, it turns out, things are getting more complicated and confusing. Is it possible that a man could be pregnant? Let’s try to reach a conclusion after reviewing the situation of two very different couples.

  1. Diane and Fernando

Diane Rodriguez, 33, and her boyfriend Fernando Machado, 22, are a transgender couple from Ecuador. They have been a couple since 2013. Diane, male at birth, made headlines in her country in 2013, when she became the first transgender candidate to run for Congress. Fernando, assigned female at birth, says his transition has been fully supported by his family. The couple is set to make history when they become parents later this year.

Ms. Rodriguez told Mexican media: ‘This was the wish of both of us and there was nothing biological or legal to stop us, so we decided to do it. We live as man and woman. I’m a transfeminine woman and Fernando is a transmasculine man. The process to get here was complex for each of us. Knowing it’s our right, we decided to add another member to our family.’

What could be interpreted as just another pregnancy between a man and a woman has been dubbed by Wikipedia as “Transgender Pregnancy”. In fact, there are previous cases of transgender men having given birth. For example, in 2010, Guinness World Records recognized Thomas Beatie as the world’s “First Married Man to Give Birth” (see official announcement here). The novelty of Diane Rodriguez and Fernando Machado’s pregnancy is that both of them are transgender.

(Note from the author 09/25/2016: 6 months after we published this blog, we became aware that Diane and Fernando gave birth and they hope to have more babies. Read the story here).

  1. Mike and Amanda

Mike Dowdall, 25 at the time of this story, suffered from morning sickness, food cravings, hot flushes, and even a swollen belly – just like his pregnant girlfriend Amanda Bennett. At 33 weeks of Amanda’s gestation, Mike had gained 28 pounds and suffered from headaches, exhaustion, back ache, and water retention. After weeks of suffering from morning sickness on a daily basis, Mike consulted his doctor who diagnosed an extreme case of Couvade syndrome.

Couvade syndrome, also called sympathetic pregnancy, is a condition in which a partner experiences some of the same symptoms and behavior of an expectant mother. These most often include minor weight gain, altered hormone levels, morning nausea, and disturbed sleep patterns. In more extreme cases, symptoms can include labor pains, postpartum depression, and nosebleeds. The labor pain symptom is commonly known as sympathy pain.

Mike, from Manchester (England), told the newspaper Sun: “Anything Amanda’s body does pregnancy-wise, mine does too. I’ve never felt so rough.”

The precise cause of Couvade syndrome is not known although some experts believe it is a psychosomatic condition caused by factors such as anxiety about fatherhood or closeness to a partner. Others believe the symptoms are the result of a high level of female hormone in the dad-to-be’s body. In most cases symptoms disappear once their partner has given birth.

So, there you go. Next time you hear about someone being pregnant, perhaps it will be wiser to ask “how many weeks are they pregnant?” or simply “when is the baby due” and wait, expectantly, for the one responding to ease your curiosity.

Diego Wyszynski

Dr. Diego Wyszynski is the Founder and CEO of Pregistry. He is an expert on the effects of medications and vaccines in pregnancy and lactation and an accomplished writer, having published 3 books with Oxford University Press and more than 70 articles in medical journals. In 2017, he was selected a TEDMED Research Scholar. Diego attended the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.


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