How Childbirth Can Change A New Father’s Body And Brain

We know that childbirth can bring about some strong mood swings, hormonal changes, stress and many other bodily changes for the women. But does this mean that men are not affected by childbirth at all? Sure, they don’t carry the baby for 9 months or give birth to them, but that doesn’t mean that their brain chemistry and body go completely unaffected upon making and having a child. After all, babies change everything for both their parents. The way they view life and go about it. Even recent studies have shown that men too experience hormonal, behavioral and neurological changes upon welcoming a newborn baby into their lives (1). So if you’re curious to know exactly how a man’s brain and body changes after having a child, then this is the article for you. Read the breakdown below!

1. The Testosterone Levels Seem To Dip

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Testosterone is primarily a male hormone that is entrusted with the function of properly developing male reproductive functions (2). But it is also the chemical that motivates men to find a suitable partner to have kids with. Numerous studies have shown that men who have higher levels of testosterone are more likely to be found attractive by women (3). However, it is also seen that testosterone levels in new dads can decrease significantly, around 34% (4).

Scientists believe that this is mainly an evolutionary trait in order to allow men to shift their focus inwards towards taking care of their family in order to ensure that the newborn has a better chance of survival. It also helps them resist the urge and desire to search for new partners. Moreover, the lower the level of testosterone in a new dad, the better they will be at taking care of the newborn and the household. So this decrease isn’t a bad thing, in fact it’s the opposite!

2. Oxytocin Levels Can Rise

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Scientists have also done several studies that have shown that the hormone levels of dads upon entering into fatherhood can fluctuate drastically. One such fluctuation is seen with the hormone oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. Dads who are actively involved in child rearing activities and engage or play with their babies have higher levels of oxytocin in their blood than new dads who don’t (5). Oxytocin is the hormone that is responsible for a person’s ability to feel love, relaxation and positive emotions. It also aids in creating a strong bond between the father and baby. Which is why it naturally rises in both moms and dads after the new baby arrives.

3. They Go Through Neurological Changes Too

Even the brains of new dads are affected by their newborn baby. An MRI study of 16 future dads was done and showed interesting results. The male brain demonstrated some changes that are generally seen in the woman’s brain (6). Brain areas that were linked to important factors like empathy, attachment and the ability to communicate with the baby and more gray and white matter in that man’s brain when their partner was between the 12th and 16th week of pregnancy than they had in the beginning of their pregnancy. How amazing is that! Scientists believe that the reason behind these structural brain changes is so that the dad can develop necessary parenting skills over the course of their partner’s pregnancy. This way when the baby arrives, they are already attached and empathetic towards it. This is your brain’s way of ensuring that you make a bond with your child even if you are not the one carrying them.

4. Men Can Experience Postpartum Depression

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Postpartum depression is defined as a mood disorder that is caused by pregnancy or childbirth. It leads to one feeling hopeless, sad, irritable and anxious (7). And up until a couple of years ago people thought that only women could experience postpartum depression. However, researchers have found that it is not just a disorder that affects new moms. In fact, studies show that about 10% of men experience postpartum depression as well (8).

This may be partially caused by the decreasing levels of testosterone in new fathers as low levels of testosterone can contribute to feeling lethargic, tired and disinterested. New dads may start to find pleasurable activities bland and distance themselves from everything, including the baby. However, men with low levels of testosterone may also be less likely to experience symptoms of postpartum depression as they are focused on the wellbeing of their partner. Showing emotional support to your female partner and being more involved in your relationship aids in keeping these symptoms at bay.

It’s fascinating to see how one tiny baby can bring about all of these drastic changes in a full grown adult. But babies are magical. And dads are affected by them dramatically too. These changes are all for the better and will help you on your journey to fatherhood!

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