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couvade (ko͞ovädˈ), imitation by the father of many of the concomitants of childbirth, at the time of his wife's parturition. The father may retire into seclusion as well as observe various taboos and restrictions. One explanation for this custom is that the father and mother of a newborn both have to be cautious and avoid foods and activities that might, through supernatural means, bring harm to themselves or the child. Another explanation contends that the father simulates the wife's activities in order to focus evil spirits on him rather than her. A third reasoning is that the father asserts his paternity by appearing to take part in the delivery. Indigenous South Americans (see Natives, South American), such as those of the Guianas, the Caribs, the Arawakan Guayapé, and the Northwestern and Central Gê of E Brazil, believe that the child has a stronger supernatural bond with the father than with the mother and use the couvade to reinforce this bond. In extreme forms of couvade, the man may mimic the pain and process of childbirth and expect his wife to wait on him in the following days. The practice has been noted since antiquity, in such widely dispersed places as Africa, China, Japan, India, among native populations of North and South America, and among the Basques of France and Spain.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the customs and rituals of childbirth creating the illusion that the father rather than the mother is giving birth to the child. Thus, the father pretends to be ill, adheres to a diet, groans, sometimes dresses in women's clothes, and later accepts congratulations and cares for the infant while the mother returns to work immediately after giving birth. There is evidence that the custom of couvade existed among the ancient Celts, Thracians, Scythians, and many tribes of America, Asia, and Oceania. Most Soviet ethnologists regard the custom as a reflection of the transition from a matrilineal to a patrilineal society, although some interpret it as a sign of the transition from group to paired marriage. Couvade also includes elements of magical aid for the woman in labor and of concern for the child.


Khazanov, A. M. “Zagadochnaia kuvada.” Sovetskaia etnografiia, 1968, no. 3.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Commonly known as "sympathetic pregnancy," in medical circles it is known as Couvade Syndrome, a condition associated with a woman's partner who could begin to vomit, gain weight and experience hormonal fluctuations during her pregnancy.