The Effects of Parenthood Upon Testosterone Levels

Written by Dr. White, Published on July 10th, 2018

Researchers are beginning to deeply understand the effects that declining testosterone levels have on men as they age, but are less informed regarding how natural life experiences such as fatherhood impact hormone balance and testosterone concentrations. It is well-understood that women experience significant changes in hormone levels and hormone balance dependent not only upon their age, pregnancy status, and menstrual cycle, but as a result of motherhood itself.

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Men Experience Hormonal Changes During Their Partner’s Pregnancy

As we delve deeper into the biological mechanisms of testosterone production, we are beginning to learn that male testosterone levels can be sensitive to these life changes in a similar manner as women experience hormonal change. For example, it is well-known that pregnant women are likely to experience weight gain, cravings, and mood instability, but men also experience specific psychological and physiological changes as a result of the decline in testosterone directly correlated with impending fatherhood.

In a study conducted by Dr. Robin Edelstein and associates at the University of Michigan, men were swabbed to analyze testosterone levels at certain points during their significant other’s pregnancy. What researchers discovered was that as the birth of the child drew closer, it was significantly correlated with a drop in both estradiol levels and testosterone levels.

Testosterone Decline Due to Fatherhood is Small Yet Significant

It’s important to note that the decline in testosterone measured as a result of impending fatherhood is significant, but it is not so extreme as to cause substantial issues associated with Low-T, but researchers feel very confident the decline has at least some effects that benefit men that are about to be caring for a young child. For example, it is noted that men with higher testosterone are more likely to be interested in multiple partners, and this is also true across primate species. The slight decline in testosterone production may encourage the male to go into a more proactive child-rearing mode, making them more likely to settle down and help raise the child. It is even hypothesized that this benefit may not only reflect itself toward the child but also toward the mother as well, causing the man to more actively seek to protect and meet the needs of the mother.

Settled Men Have Lower Testosterone than Single Men on Average

Other studies conducted in the recent past have produced similar results. For example, in one study, it was discovered that men that are in settled relationships, taking care of children with their partner, have suppressed testosterone levels in comparison to their single comrades, that did not experience such suppression. Both groups experienced some decline in testosterone as a result of aging, but men with children experienced a more pronounced decline. Interestingly enough, testosterone levels seem to be directly associated with the amount of care that the father provides. In the same study, men that spend less time taking care of children as the kids grow up experience a rebound in testosterone, whereas men that continue to be actively involved experience ongoing suppression.

Other Factors May Contribute to Testosterone Suppression

Of course, correlation is not necessarily causation, so other factors could be at play which leads to or magnify these differences associated with male child-rearing. There are many variables which can impact testosterone levels, including diet, exercise, finances, health, and the amount of sleep that a man gets. In upcoming studies, researchers will compare men with expecting partners with other fathers that already have children to reveal more pertinent data about the connection between female pregnancy and male testosterone levels.

There are a wide variety of factors which can suppress testosterone, in addition to age and the family-status of a man. Studies have shown that over-exertion, sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, anxiety, and poor sleep can contribute to low testosterone levels, and it will be essential to evaluate these factors in a controlled study in order to determine how much of the decline associated with future fatherhood is direct as a result of programmed change and how much is the result of changes in lifestyle.

How Can Men Support Healthy Testosterone Levels

Though slight changes in testosterone levels may improve a man’s child-rearing ability in the short-term, significant testosterone decline leads to a wide variety of symptoms which suppress health and wellness. Keeping testosterone concentrations at a healthy level is vitally important to sustaining optimal health, and it’s important to notice the signs of Low-T, which include reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depression, changes in body fat and muscle mass, as well as fatigue and anxiety. For men with Low-T, improving one’s lifestyle can be highly beneficial, but beyond a certain point and age, many men will only respond adequately to bio-identical testosterone therapy.

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