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Manopause

Courtesy of Weldon Owen

It turns out fatherhood has little use for the macho hormone responsible for Fu Manchu moustaches, fist bumps, and the World Arm Wrestling Federation.

A recent long-term study tracked 624 men from singlehood through parenthood. It found that when a father brings home a baby, his testosterone levels drop considerably. In fact, the more time a dad spends caring for his newborn, the greater the decline. One theory is this is nature’s way of toning down the male’s aggressive side to make him more cuddly and sensitive. Translation: Less arm wrestling, more thumb wrestling.

The study has been covered from New Jersey to New Zealand. It was sent to me by a half dozen people in my office.

Check this out!

Unbelievable!

You should write about this!

Can I have my stapler back?

My response was: what’s all the hubbub about?

Why are we amazed that dads have a biological connection to their children? Sadly, the sperm donor stereotype persists. Mom is the tin of warm, cinnamon-y muffins; Dad is the raw powder in the Betty Crocker box.

I know, I know. A pregnant woman has an obvious bond with her child (to the point that they can have synchronized heartbeats). A dad’s role could end after a woozy, Cuervo-marinated rendezvous. But science has shown that male species experience a very real biological change when they become fathers. Call it “manopause.”

Consider the 2010 study published in Scientific American that discovered a spike in brain cell growth when a male mouse spends time with his new litter of babies. (This particular type of brain growth is strongly correlated with learning new things.) The same effect didn’t occur in papa mice that were removed from the family nest the day of the birth. Interestingly, this post-baby brain growth was regulated by the hormone prolactin, which controls milk production in new mothers.

Manopause also alters our emotions. The stress hormone cortisol tends to surge four to six weeks after a man learns he’s going to be a father; it puts him on high alert for the impending arrival. Postpartum depression in men is also very real: ten percent of dads deal with depression after the baby arrives, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. For women, that figure is 13 percent.

Once we truly accept manopause, we can change our thinking. Hey Mom, Dad’s body is preparing for the big arrival too. Hey Dad, don’t worry, nature has your back. Fatherhood isn’t just one of your 50 million sperm winning Survivor: Fallopian Tube. It’s the role we were born to play.

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