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Babies decrease fathers’ testosterone

Photo: Jill M. Creative Commons.

The birth of a baby decreases testosterone in fathers, triggering increased protectiveness but also sometimes a decrease in affection for the mother.

The birth of a baby decreases testosterone in fathers, triggering increased protectiveness for the baby but also sometimes a decrease in affection for the mother.

In fathers compared to childless men the level of testosterone, the most prominent male sex hormone, is decreased. Active paternal care is associated with a reduced engagement in competitive or mating behavior and an increased motivation to provide protection. This behavior is linked to the fall in testosterone.

Men who show high sensation seeking behavior – looking for a “kick” and feelings of novelty – experience a lower decline in testosterone than other men. High sensation seeking is related to mating behavior and elevated testosterone levels in men.

Perhaps related to this, our studies found that new fathers report a strong decrease of their partnership quality compared to men in a committed romantic relationship without children. In particular, they describe a decrease of tenderness for the mother after the birth. This is also linked to a reduction in testosterone and a drop in interest in mating activity when a baby is born.

Having a baby means a tremendous change of daily life. Although most fathers describe a strong desire to actively take care of their family, some are troubled and may react to their partner’s strong focus on the baby.

The message for fathers? Your feelings are influenced by your hormones and by the extreme changes you are experiencing. You may feel less affection for the mother of your baby but this may be related to biological changes in you that are making you more protective of the baby and less interested in mating. Give time for affection to return: it can and your baby needs this too.