Pregnancy, Postpartum and Men’s Testosterone Levels
It’s become a common joke among expecting parents that the male partners have to shed “pregnancy weight” along with their female partners after the birth of their child. Whether those extra pounds were gained as a result of intentionally “showing support” or just indulging along with their partner’s pregnancy cravings, in the past, men just chalked it up to being a caring father-to-be. But new research has shown another part of the pregnancy experience that men share along with their female partners—hormonal changes!
While wildly fluctuating hormones are quite the norm for women during pregnancy, it’s not as well known that men may also experience hormonal shifts. A study conducted at the University of Southern California and published in the journal Hormones and Behavior followed 27 couples throughout their first pregnancy and a few months postpartum. Hormone levels, and specifically testosterone levels, were measured throughout the duration of the pregnancy, and the parents-to-be gauged their respective partner’s involvement, commitment, and feelings of contentment during the same period. The researchers found that the men showed lower levels of testosterone throughout the progression of the pregnancy, which had a corresponding positive effect with their female partner’s testosterone levels.
The study suggested that this improved correlation between the expectant parents’ testosterone levels indicates higher father involvement post-birth. This supposed “syncing up” of hormones between parents is said to be a likely indicator of the father’s postpartum dedication to the familial unit. According to this study, lowered testosterone is said to calm the evolutionary and instinctual urge for a man to continue to “sow his wild oats” and instead begin to start caring for his offspring and take on a new role as a provider and nurturer.
Another study done at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and published in the American Journal of Human Biology showed similar results for male hormone decline during the female partner’s pregnancy progression. This study evaluated 29 couples expecting their first child together and also documented a decline in male testosterone levels. It should be noted that the decreased levels were considered significant, but were not so extreme as to be considered to meet the diagnosis of low testosterone. Researchers speculated, similarly to the researchers from the University of Southern California study, that the lower testosterone levels might lead to less aggression, which might make a new father more nurturing and a better caregiver. The male hormone shift may also be linked to the aforementioned “sympathy weight gain” that is commonly experienced by many fathers-to-be along with their pregnant partners.
Having a new baby can put an enormous amount of stress on both parents, from the sleepless nights to learning how to soothe your crying newborn to getting your body back to normal, the emotional, mental, and physical toll is no small thing—and the better health you are in, the better you’ll be able to bounce back and just enjoy life with your new baby. The expert physicians of the BodyLogicMD network can help support both women and men through all stages of life, including pregnancy and new parenthood, by developing customized nutrition and fitness programs tailored to your body’s needs as well as monitoring and adjusting hormones to help you achieve your best health. Contact a BodyLogicMD physician near you today and get on a path to total wellness that leaves more room for the important things in life.