Why do new dads have hormone surge?

New fathers are experiencing the same hormone surge as new mothers, but what are the real reasons behind this?

Dad and baby, father, world news, marie claire
Dad and baby, father, world news, marie claire
(Image credit: Rex Features)

New fathers are experiencing the same hormone surge as new mothers, but what are the real reasons behind this?

New research has found that men experience the same surge in parenting hormones that women do once their child is born. However, is there any real scientific reasoning behind this? Or do men simply want to feel more involved in the parenting process?

It has long been documented that hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin are activated in women during childbirth.

These hormones are intrinsically linked, however, to that physical process, with oxytocin kicking in to aid with contractions, while prolactin encourages lactation.

So mystery remains as to why new fathers also experience a surge in the exact same hormones.

In one experiment conducted by Yale-based neuroscientist, Ruth Feldman, research focused on the levels of the two hormones in 43 men in the first six months after their newborn’s arrival.

Results revealed a strong correlation between the levels of the two hormones in new fathers and how good they were at playing and communicating with their children.

Feldman, therefore, believes that the surge is nature’s way to make fathers more empathetic. ‘These hormones seem to have a powerful role in helping men bond with their newly born children,’ she said. '[It is] helping men turn into good parents as soon as they have a baby.'

These findings do provide solid scientific reasoning for why many men have experienced a sudden explosion in emotions and attitudes after their baby’s arrival.

This may also be the reason behind why many celebrity bad boys, like Colin Farrell, have described themselves as changed men after becoming fathers; giving up their notorious hell-raising to become doting parents.

Some may dismiss these professions as nothing more than an excuse to clean up their tainted image.

However, in further studies conducted by Feldman, which compared oxytocin levels in both new mothers and new fathers, she found that the hormone levels rose just as much in men as in women.

But there is one other theory. Senior lecturer at King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, Dr Michael Craig, has revealed that rising levels of oxytocin are also a response to elevated levels of stress. ‘So this could also be part of the explanantion,’ he said.

What do you think? Do you think the surge in hormones is nature’s way of helping men bond with their newborn? Or is it down to the stress of the new arrival? Or is it simply men’s excuse to become more involved in the parenting process? Whatever your thoughts let us know in the comments box below.

Natalia Lubomirski
Natalia is a health journalist with 14 years experience in the publishing industry. She has worked for a number of well known magazines and websites including Marie Claire, Woman&Home, Top Sante, Boots and The Telegraph.  She likes to think she practices what she preaches when it comes to health and fitness. Her athletic prowess began early. A keen fencer for 13 years, she wielded an epée for Olympic Team GB during her teenage years. She likes to think she made sword-fighting cool before Game of Thrones came along! While working on her sporting performance with the team, she also participated in a lot of nutrition and psychology training, When it comes to time off, you’ll most likely find her up a mountain somewhere. It seems holidays have become a time for climbing several thousand feet, rather than chilling out. She’s now hiked eight of the major mountain ranges across four continents – including the Appalachians, the Smokies, the Sierra Nevadas (she spent her honeymoon hiking to the top of Half Dome), as well as hitting the summits of Snowdon, Pen-Y-Fan (Brecon Beacons), Table Mountain in South Africa, the Blue Mountains in Australia and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. She’s also passionate about all things health, particularly vaccinations, and will happily jump on her soap box at any given opportunity to talk about their benefits to anyone who will listen!