We’re continuing the blog theme from last week about hormonal changes for men as they enter fatherhood, with our Toronto Naturopath, Dr. Julia Segal. This week we are talking about testosterone. For a quick recap on last week’s post, click here.
Testosterone is another hormone that undergoes considerable change in men after they’ve had a baby. Men’s testosterone levels are much higher than women’s in general, and play an important role in their mood and physical health. Testosterone levels in men decrease during the last few months of their partners’ pregnancy, then further decrease after birth and remain low for several months after a baby is born. This is thought to support involvement as a parent. Higher testosterone is associated with more competitive behaviour and aggression, whereas men with lower testosterone feel and express more sympathy and need to respond when their infants cry. Men who co-sleep with their baby and partner have further reductions in testosterone than men who don’t. This is supportive of their new role in their family, but also brings up the question of vulnerability to postpartum depression (PPD) which is surprisingly common in fathers and seldom talked about. Low testosterone in older men is associated with a higher rate of depression.
If you’re a new father or father to be, you can bank on the higher oxytocin levels stimulated by your baby and the caregiving effort you put in, to counter the effects of lower testosterone, as oxytocin has so many mood supporting benefits. However, if you have a history of mental health issues, don’t rely on the warm fuzzies from parenting alone to get you through. You may need the extra oxytocin boost that specific self-care can provide: firm pressure, warmth applied to the body, nourishing carbohydrates, healthy fats, sufficient sleep, and positive interactions with those who support and see YOU, are oxytocin boosting. When utilized regularly, these self-care measures can help protect you from the pitfalls of postpartum mood and adjustment disorders, which in men are shown in many studies to be most likely when baby is one year old. It’s a longer haul than pregnancy – and our Toronto Naturopaths can make a very supportive member of your support team for great physical and mental health as a father.