6 Ways Men Change When They Become Fathers (Their Bodies May Change Too!)
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. A hormonal and emotional roller coaster, a strong affection for the new baby, anxiety, and depression, and even pregnancy symptoms — it may sound unbelievable, but this is what many men go through when their kids are born.
We at Bright Side took a closer look at how male bodies and minds may change after they become fathers, and here’s what we’ve learned.
The level of testosterone may drop.
A high level of testosterone is responsible for behavioral traits like aggression, competition, and attracting a new partner. But when a man becomes a father, his level of testosterone seems to decrease, suggesting that now all of the man’s attention should be directed inside the family, not outward.
Studies 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. It looks like, over time, male bodies learned how to lower testosterone levels in order to shift men’s priorities and turn them into committed fathers.
The level of oxytocin and dopamine rises.
Oxytocin and dopamine are 2 chemicals that are responsible for the bond between a parent and a child. While the levels of testosterone drop, the positive effects of oxytocin and dopamine rise, making a new father enjoy playing and cuddling with their babies more.
Hormonal highs and lows can lead to male postnatal depression.
While many of us know what postpartum depression in women is, few of us have probably heard anything about postnatal depression in men. 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. Hormonal changes together with the load of a new father’s responsibilities make men prone to experiencing mental health issues, that is why it is so important to know that hormonal and behavioral changes happen in the fathers’ bodies too.
Some brain changes may happen as well.
Scientists studied the brain activity in a group of new fathers, and it turned out that during the first 4 months after childbirth their brains showed some noticeable changes in the gray matter. These changes help new dads develop their parenting skills and build a strong bond with their infants. These early father and baby interactions build a strong basis for the future parent-child relationship and play a big role in kids’ cognitive and social development.
In particular, the brain of a new father can show more activity in the areas responsible for 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.
Men can even develop pregnancy symptoms when their partner is expecting a baby.
It’s not only after the child is born that new fathers experience some changes in their bodies. During their partner’s pregnancy men can have pregnancy related symptoms like nausea, appetite changes, bloating, and backaches. This phenomenon is called sympathetic pregnancy, or couvade. This state is not officially recognized as a medical condition, but these symptoms may be common for fathers-to-be.
Men can experience high levels of emotional stress.
Parenting responsibilities can result in high levels of stress and anxiety in new dads, but the most dangerous part of this is that men might feel that they cannot seek help. New fathers often tend to think that their cry for support and help can distract attention from the new mothers’ needs which are, as they believe, more crucial. Men who’ve just become fathers can experience huge physical and emotional stress, but they tend to shift the focus of attention to their female partners.
This is why it is so important for both of the parents to spend time together, talking over what they’re experiencing now that the baby has arrived. A burden shared is a burden halved, they say, and sometimes an honest conversation with your partner can work miracles.
Do you have kids? Have you ever noticed any interesting changes in new fathers? Tell us in the comments!