Couvade —

a term that refers to indigenous ritual acts performed by the male parent during the female parent’s pregnancy and postpartum period in which the male parent is subject to endure characteristics of pregnancy such as abstinence, pain, labor, or discomfort (Gross, 2005). 

This ritual has been practiced in indigenous nations in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands for the purpose of allowing the non-childbearing parent to foster a deeper sense of physical/emotion responsibility & connection towards their young child. Its manifestation varies across cultures; however, some documented couvade rituals include fasting, food restrictions, extended solitude, and even physical mutilation. Some groups would even put hot pepper into the father’s open wounds to simulate the pain of labor.

How would mothering & parenting be different in our society if non-childbearing parents were expected to practice couvade? Leave a comment below

References & Further Reading


Gross, Rita M. “Couvade.” Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Lindsay Jones, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2005, pp. 2046-2047.

Reed, Richard K.. Birthing Fathers : The Transformation of Men in American Rites of Birth, Rutgers University Press, 2005.

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