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Expectant Fathers' Hormones Change During Their Partner's Pregnancy

Katlyn Joy |28, December 2014


A new study out of the University of Michigan and published in this month's the American Journal of Human Biology found that men experience significant hormonal shifts as they become fathers.

What's new about this study is that it demonstrates a change in men's hormone levels not just after birth, but also during pregnancy. Previous studies have shown a drop in testosterone after having a child, but this looked at hormone levels throughout pregnancy.

For the studies, researchers looked at 29 expectant couples and tested their levels of testosterone, cortisol, estradiol, and progesterone present in their saliva. The samples were collected four time; at the 12th, 20th, 28th and 36th week of pregnancy from both the mother and father.

The female levels were what was expected, having rises in all the hormones during pregnancy. However, the men saw their cortisol, a stress hormone, and in their progesterone, which is a hormone linked to maternal behavior and social closeness. However, the men saw drops in their testosterone, which is linked to aggression and parental care, and estradiol which is linked to caregiving and bonding.

Robin Edelstein, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan stated, "We don't yet know exactly why men's hormones are changing. These changes could be a function of psychological changes that men experience as they prepare to become fathers, changes in their romantic relationships, or even physical changes that men experience along with their pregnant partners."

One downside to this study is a lack of a control group consisting of non-pregnant couples, to rule out the possibility that the hormonal changes are linked to age or time, rather than the experience of pregnancy or becoming a father.

However, the researchers think that the hormone levels may be nature's way of helping a man prepare for the new demands of family life. High testosterone levels could interfere with the normal bonding processes of a new family.

How Men Can Transition to Fatherhood

While nature may well be preparing men for fatherhood, there are other things partners can do to help their men transition more easily into the new role.

Include the father in the prenatal care visits.

The doctor shouldn't meet the father in the labor suite. He should be a part of the medical visits, and be up to speed with every involving his child. He should feel an integral part of the process.

Give him a good book to read.

Do not give him a virtual library of pregnancy, birth or parenting books. That's doomed to failure. Pick the one that convey s the information in a direct way that he can connect to. Don't give him the

Talk about thone written like it's a conversation between girlfriends, as it will alienate him.

Discuss your birth plans.

e choices you have, and the feelings you both have about them. Find out his feelings, and put a birth plan to paper to that end.

Discuss parenting plans.

How will you raise this child? What about religion? What are your views on discipline? Education? Moral training? It's never too early to start talking, but realize nothing is written in indelible ink, here. You will likely grow into your roles as parents and change opinions somewhat over time. However, it's good to get on the same page as much as possible in the beginning. Will you go back to work as soon as the maternity leave ends? Will he take leave? These are some of the immediate parenting decisions you'll need to make.

Don't let him get pushed to the side when baby arrives.

First, you are now a mother. However, you didn't stop being a wife in the process. Don't forget all you are to everyone. Allow time and attention to still flow between the two of you as partners, not just parents. Don't allow bossy family members to invade your home and take over, leaving dad in the dust. Maintain boundaries and show respect to the father by not talking down or leaving him out. Whether he's been around kids or not, you are both in the same boat. You are both first time parents.

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