Did you know that women are not the only ones who change upon having a baby? Pregnancy and childbirth bring about a lot of physical and psychological changes in the new mother’s body, but it turns out that men can experience a wide spectrum of bodily and mental changes when becoming dads too. Men can go through a roller coaster of emotions as well, including hormonal changes and even pregnancy symptoms. Now these may not look the same in men as they do in women but they do appear. Isn’t that insane! Many men go through a lot of changes once the baby is born and it’s about time we paid close attention to them as well. Would you like to know how you or your partner might change psychologically and physically after having a baby? Read on to find out!
1. The Level Of Testosterone May Drop
We all know that whereas women release a hormone called estrogen, men release a hormone known as testosterone. A high level of testosterone is responsible for behavioral traits like aggression, competition, and attracting a new partner. But something interesting happens when they become a father. A man’s level of testosterone seems to decrease (1). This suggests that the man’s energy should be focused inward, towards the wellbeing of his family instead of outward. Studies also suggest that men who already have a partner and those who have children have lower testosterone levels compared to men without kids and those who are still in search of a partner (2). This is probably biology’s way of shifting a man’s priorities over time. The male bodies learned how to lower testosterone levels in order to shift men’s priorities and turn them into committed fathers.
2. The Level Of Oxytocin And Dopamine Rises
Yes, that’s right, there are more hormones coming your way. Lower levels of testosterone make way for new hormones to enter into a man’s blood stream. Oxytocin and dopamine are extremely important as these 2 chemicals are responsible for the bond between a parent and their child (3). When a man finally has a child the positive effects of oxytocin and dopamine rise, making a new father enjoy playing and cuddling with his baby more. How amazing is that!
3. Hormonal Highs And Lows Can Lead To Postnatal Depression
Most of us have heard of postnatal depression in women as it is far more common and detectable. But did you know that men can succumb to postnatal depression as well? This may come as a surprise but it isn’t quite as far of a stretch as you think it is. Apart from its other functions, testosterone also plays a big role in protecting us from feeling low, and when its levels drop, young fathers may become prone to depression (4). These hormonal changes coupled with the load of responsibilities of father can be quite overwhelming for men which in turn can make them prone to experiencing mental health issues. This is why it is so important to know that hormonal and behavioral changes happen in the fathers’ bodies too.
4. Some Brain Changes May Happen As Well
As it turns out all the hormonal changes can cause the brain to change as well. Scientists studied the brain activity in a group of new fathers, and it was observed that during the first 4 months after childbirth their brains showed some noticeable changes in the gray matter (5). These changes are important as they are responsible for helping new dads develop their parenting skills and build a strong bond with their infants. And as we know, these early father and baby interactions not only build a strong basis for the future parent-child relationship but also play a big role in the child’s cognitive and social development as they grow. The brain of a new father can show more activity in very specific areas such as planning, problem solving and risk detection. In other words, these are the areas that help the father make sure their baby is safe and sound. We love to see it!
5. Men Can Experience High Levels Of Emotional Stress
Mums aren’t the only ones under pressure once the baby arrives. Yes they are more directly responsible to fulfill; the needs of the baby, such as, nursing and soothing them. But parenting responsibilities can result in high levels of stress and anxiety in new dads as they have a new family member who relies upon them and who they need to provide for. The unfortunate thing is that most men don’t feel like they can seek help when they feel stressed and frustrated with their new duties. They don’t want to shift focus from their female partners and worry them. But it is completely normal for men to go through an emotionally turbulent time after the baby arrives and seeking help will help them cope with all the changes better.
New fathers go through many changes psychologically and physically and this needs to be addressed as well. This is why it is so important for partners to spend time with each other and bond as a family during those first crucial months. Support and bring out the best in each other. Happy parenting!
Kezia holds a deep interest in writing about women adapting to motherhood and childcare. She writes on several topics that help women navigate the joys and responsibilities of being a new mom and celebrate every stage of their baby’s development. When she is not writing for MomJunction, she sings in a classical Western choir and reads endlessly.