Research Gives New Meaning to “We’re Having a Baby!”
Any women who has ever been pregnant knows all too well what a roller coaster ride of surging hormones the experience can entail. Pregnancy is a wondrous journey, which culminates with the miracle of life. As women, it’s our honor and privilege to possess this precious ability to nurture life. But, those hormones…
Of course, making a baby takes two. We’re fortunate to live in an era when men are welcomed into the delivery room, and the nursery. In modern America, men are playing an integral role in the care and raising of their children. And that’s a blessing, not only for men themselves, but for their children, whose lives are undoubtedly enriched by this hands-on approach to co-parenting. Their wives benefit, too. Having and raising a baby takes an enormous amount of time, energy and resources. Now, men are all but expected to help. Claiming ignorance about the mysteries of the diaper-change table is no longer acceptable. Men get to pitch in and help. To be sure, it’s usually expected.
However, it’s always been assumed, for obvious reasons, that women alone must endure the physiological changes and challenges of pregnancy. According to this view, men are little more than hapless bystanders.
But new research indicates that men’s involvement in pregnancy may go deeper than we previously suspected. Remarkably, scientists have shown that expectant fathers’ hormones undergo some dramatic changes during pregnancy and soon after delivery, too. Specifically, testosterone and estradiol levels drop before delivery, while progesterone levels and cortisol levels remain about the same. That’s intriguing, if proven to be true, because it suggests a mechanism by which expectant fathers undergo changes that could enhance their ability to bond with and care for their babies.
“We don't yet know exactly why men's hormones are changing,” said Robin Edelstein, the study’s lead author. “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…Nevertheless, fathers' hormonal changes could have important implications for paternal behavior once their babies are born.”
So, if you’re pregnant, you can take heart. Your man may be riding the hormonal roller coaster with you, even more so than you may have realized. If you have any pregnancy stories to tell, I’d love to hear them.
Robin S. Edelstein, Britney M. Wardecker, William J. Chopik, Amy C. Moors, Emily L. Shipman, Natalie J. Lin. Prenatal hormones in first-time expectant parents: Longitudinal changes and within-couple correlations. American Journal of Human Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.22670