Ask any woman who’s had children, and she’ll probably tell you that pregnancy sucks.
Morning sickness, stretch marks, sore ankles
– and the absolute nightmare that is childbirth, which many women have described as the most excruciatingly painful experience of their life. Normally, if a man said to a pregnant woman “I know how you feel” she would probably – rightfully – laugh in his face. Unless, of course, that man was
William Bennett: A seventy-nine-year-old man from Sheerness, Kent, over in the UK.
By 1981, he’d experienced his 30th pregnancy.
This is the story of the man who kept getting pregnant, and the extremely strange condition that caused it.
I know what you’re probably thinking: Thirty pregnancies would be utterly insane for a woman, let alone a man!
How is this possible?
These are all fair questions.
Maybe your mind immediately jumped to Thomas Beatie, the transgender man who reached tabloid stardom and Guinness-Book-Of-World-Record-fame for being the first public example of a “pregnant man.”
Or, for a more modern example, Hayden Cross, another transgender man from the UK who became the first legal male in the UK to give birth to a child in 2017.
But what makes William Bennett’s case feel particularly strange is the fact he’s not transgender, and even if he was, at age seventy-nine he’d be decades beyond menopause.
The Story of William Bennett
William Bennett’s strange pregnancies had everything to do with his four daughters.
Every time one of his daughters got pregnant,
William would begin to exhibit the symptoms
Specifically, his belly would begin to swell
up, and remain in a swollen state until the
This came as a shock to Mr. Bennett, because
this hadn’t occurred at all when his wife was pregnant with any of his four daughters.
He didn’t, however, miss any of his thirty
The Bennett family was apparently breeding
like rabbits, and William was feeling all of it directly.
And before you say that all of this sounds like an urban legend, these strange symptoms were corroborated by William Bennett’s general practitioner, recorded only as Dr. Fitzgerald.
According to her tests, during one particularly severe incident where three of his daughters were pregnant at the same time, Bennett’s abdomen bloated out by an incredible thirty inches.
If you’re having trouble picturing that, that’s actually half an inch bigger than your standard, NBA-approved basketball.
He’d need to invest in pregnancy pants and
some very loose-fitting shirts to live comfortably during that ordeal.
While no doctor was ever able to diagnose the concrete medical reason behind what was physically causing William Bennett’s stomach
to swell, there is actually some medical precedent for the condition he was experiencing.
You may have heard the term “phantom pregnancy” or “sympathetic pregnancy” thrown around before, or the more arcane medical term “couvade syndrome.”
While this typically occurs more in expectant
fathers than grandfathers-to-be, and cases
are rarely as severe and dramatic, cases of
phantom pregnancy are actually a lot more
common than you think.
In 2007, researchers at St. George University in London carried out a study into two-hundred-and-eighty-two expectant fathers who were experiencing phantom pregnancies.
These men had experiences that ran the gamut of pregnancy woes: Swollen stomachs – like William Bennett -, cramps, sickness, mood swings, pregnancy cravings, depression, insomnia, fatigue, fainting, and back pains.
In some studies, doctors have noticed subtle
physical changes in the biological makeup
of the men experiencing these phantom pregnancies.
There were slight hormonal shifts in prolactin, testosterone, estradiol, and cortisol.
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Dr. Amos Gruneberg also noted that hormone changes tend to kick in after the first trimester and persist until birth.
While these dry, scientific descriptions might
make it seem like this experience isn’t too bad, to actually have to suffer through this bizarre condition is kind of a nightmare.
Here are some of the ways the men in the study described their extremely strange conditions first hand.
One man said,
I was constantly hungry all
the time and had an unstoppable craving for
chicken kormas and poppadoms.
Even in the early hours of the morning I would
get up and prepare myself one.
It was strange to say the least.
And another one said,
It seemed like my pain was worse.
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.
Even though medical science had advanced significantly by 2007, scientists still couldn’t find a concrete physical reason for these strange, psychosomatic symptoms.
There were also other commonalities: Symptoms would often manifest early on in the pregnancy, often persist throughout the nine-month course, and then dissipate after the birth.
Some doctors had theories about why this weird anomaly was popping up –
One of the researchers, Dr Arthur Brennan, said
“These men were so attuned to their partners, they started to develop the same symptoms.
Some people may perceive this as men trying
to get in on the act, but far from being attention-seeking, these symptoms are involuntary. Often the men haven’t got a clue about what’s happening to them.”
Brennan went on to declare,
recognise Couvade Syndrome – there’s no medical diagnosis.
Yet this research proves that Couvade Syndrome really exists – the results speak for themselves.”
Luckily for people suffering from phantom
pregnancies, they don’t have to deal with any of pregnancy’s unpleasant aftereffects.
There have been no reports of men suffering
This, however, doesn’t mean that the experience doesn’t have some scary psychological side effects.
Some men have reported having extremely distressing dreams and night-terrors – one man describing a dream where he was lying in bed, the ceiling caving in above him, and millions of spiders crawling through the hole.
Some have also reported disrupted sleeping patterns and even sleepwalking.
Though, to be fair, if you were suddenly, mysteriously pregnant, you probably wouldn’t sleep well, either.
Why William Bennett had such a severe case of phantom pregnancy, if he actually did have
the symptoms, or if he ever even existed at all, we may never truly know.
Whether it was down to a particular cocktail
of hormones or a really empathetic disposition is a detail lost to history, but one thing is for sure: If you’re a man whose wife or girlfriend is trying for a baby, maybe invest in two pairs of pregnancy pants, just in case.
Thanks for reading this interesting story from tistip!
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