ACHES and pains are often part of pregnancy. But men do their best not to complain too much.
Until the morning sickness kicks in that is, along with the mood swings, cramps and, yes, even a swelling belly.
Scientists claim some fathers-to-be are so in tune with their expectant partners they experience a phantom pregnancy.
In the largest study of its kind, 282 expectant fathers were monitored by specialists while their partners were pregnant. The results were then compared with the emotional and physical wellbeing of 281 men whose partners were not having a baby.
"These men were so attuned to their partners, they started to develop the same symptoms," said Arthur Brennan, who carried out the research at St George's University of London.
One man in the study said he and his wife suffered morning sickness at the same time, while another said his stomach pains worsened in a similar way to a woman's contractions.
Some men involved in the study even experienced food cravings.
"I was constantly hungry all the time and had an unstoppable craving for chicken kormas and poppadoms," one said. "Even in the early hours of the morning I would get up and prepare myself one. It was strange to say the least."
Others claimed to have suffered back pain and extreme fatigue. Three said their stomachs appeared to be swollen, while two piled on the kilograms.
Four claimed to have lost weight. One started fainting and others reported dental problems, insomnia and depression.
Eleven men sought help from their GPs, but a number of tests failed to detect any physical cause to explain the symptoms.
Most men noticed symptoms in the early stages of their partner's pregnancy. Others had to cope with problems right up until the delivery.
Being in the labour ward can be traumatic for many men. But one of those in the study insisted the stomach pain he experienced during labour outranked his wife's discomfort.
"It seemed like my pain was worse," he said. "Her contractions were fairly strong but she couldn't push, and as that was happening my stomach pain was building up and up and getting worse and worse."
The phenomenon is known as Couvade syndrome, but is not a recognised medical condition.