Mom is pregnant but dad is having cravings. She has every reason to be cranky, irritable, and hormonal considering the fluctuation in her hormones, but he’s the one that’s acting pregnant. Recent research reveals that even though mom may be pregnant, fathers-to-be also experience significant hormonal changes.
According to Dr. Laura Berman, within four to six weeks of learning about his impending baby, a man’s levels of cortisol typically increase. Cortisol is the stress hormone produced in the brain. It is responsible for our fight-flight-freeze response.
Why might a dad’s cortisol increase with the awareness of a new baby on the way? Evolutionary psychology informs us of the biological drive for men to be hunters therefore creating security for the developing brood. When dad hears that there will be a new mouth to feed, he is propelled into action to begin hunting, or in our society, to go to work so that he can provide for his family.
Dr. Berman states that testosterone levels also undergo changes during pregnancy. In the first few weeks after his child’s birth, a man’s testosterone levels drop by about a third. Testosterone is responsible in assisting with many of the body’s functions, such as playing a key role in a man’s sexual desire. However recent studies surrounding the “love hormone” oxytocin go along ways in explaining this.
Oxytocin is the body’s anti-stress hormone which has gained unprecedented levels of attention for its potential healing properties for autism, anxiety, and depression. But it also has a sister hormone that is predominate in men called, vasopressin. Vasopressin is the hormone that compels men to become more protective of their families. So from a purely evolutionary perspective, if you are busy chasing a pregnant mom for sex then you aren’t going to have a lot of time for protecting! Oxytocin and vasopressin both suppress the testosterone response so that rather than being driven for sex during pregnancy, dad is more driven towards protection and nurturing his developing family.
Once the baby is born, dad, mom and baby all get to share in the power of the “love hormone” which promotes healthy attachment and bonding, creating the foundation for an emotionally secure and even physically healthy family.
Bryan Post is the managing editor of www.OxytocinCentral.com the leading online resource for understanding and exploring the healing power of oxytocin.