Sympathetic pregnancy, or “couvade syndrome,” used to be a male myth. The idea that men undergo real physical changes, like gaining weight, when their wife is pregnant was relegated to the realm of the psychosomatic — an overly dramatic dad.
But it’s no longer a myth that men change during pregnancy and fatherhood. As I explore in this week’s Science of Kids column, both dads and babies undergo real chemical shifts when they’re around each other.
What are they?
The hormones cortisol and testosterone drop in men after birth, likely as a way of keeping dad focused on caregiving, not fighting. Oxytocin levels rise to support bonding.
And in other primates, like the very domestic marmoset monkey — who gives us a helpful window into how our own attachment system works — neuron connections grow in some vital ares of the prefrontal cortex at the start of fatherhood. Not only that, as I mentioned in a recent post on this subject, in some species, babies’ brains have been found to change in dad’s company. Read this week’s science column for an in-depth look at the chemistry of fatherhood.
What about you? Do you feel like fatherhood (or motherhood) has changed you?
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