Becoming a father is a wondrous event. But with that bundle of joy also come many sleepless nights and tons of dirty diapers to change. And now, according to new research, we learn it is also accompanied by a drop in testosterone levels for the new dad.1
A study conducted at Northwestern University in Chicago focused on 465 men who are part of the Cebu Longitudinal Health & Nutrition Survey in the Philippines. All of the participants were tested in 2005 when they were 21 years old to determine their testosterone levels. They were tested again in 2009 when they were 26 years old, after approximately half of the volunteers had become fathers.
There were drops in the testosterone levels of all of the men as they aged. But the men who had not had children had only a 12 to 15 percent decrease in testosterone, while the men who had a baby between one month and a year old had a 30 percent decrease. Those with infants younger than one month old experienced the greatest decline in testosterone, with levels four to five times lower than men with no children and twice as low as fathers of older children.
Clearly, the traditional belief that only women experience chemical changes from parenthood doesn’t stand up. It would appear that fathers — especially brand new ones — go through hormonal changes just like mothers do. While the fathers’ testosterone levels are still considered within the normal range, the drop in testosterone could be evolution’s way of making sure dad sticks around for a while. Higher testosterone levels have been linked with risk taking behaviors, competition, and of course strong libidos that might create a desire in a man to be more sexually active. The men with the youngest babies and those most involved in child care had the lowest levels of testosterone in the study. It is possible that this encourages them to stay home and take care of their families — or, in any case, to be less motivated to wander off.
This research shows that there may be some benefits to a drop in a man’s sex hormone level when he becomes a father, at least in the short term when caring for children is so time consuming. But as we age, testosterone levels begin to diminish more and more independent of children, and at more dramatic levels. Testosterone is an important hormone to make sure we have enough of — in both men and woman as it turns out. It is responsible for pumping up energy levels, firing the need to succeed, bonding us with our mates, fueling our sexual desires, elevating our levels of sexual satisfaction, building muscle and burning off fat, and facilitating better circulation. Everybody needs all of that.
Unfortunately, once we reach our thirties, the amount of free circulating testosterone decreases in both men and women as more and more of it gets bound to albumin and becomes unavailable for the body’s use. These changes happen in connection with a natural substance called “sex-hormone-binding-globulin” or SHBG. SHBG binds not only testosterone, but all of the sex hormones including estradiol (one of the “active” estrogens found in both men and women). Normally, this binding serves as a storage system for excess hormones, but in men there is a problem — SHBG also has an affinity for prostate tissue. It can serve to bind estrogen to cell membranes in the prostate. This causes an increase in PSA secretion — a prime factor in future prostate problems, including cancer.
To reverse this decline, testosterone balancing formulas work naturally to enhance sexual desire, sensation, and performance. Wild oats and nettles, for example, work to reverse this binding process, thereby reducing the likelihood of prostate problems. Saw palmetto has been proven to help the prostate by inhibiting the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, which causes testosterone to be converted into a substance called dihydrotestosterone, which stimulates the growth of prostate tissue. And saw palmetto has been proven to exert an anti-inflammatory effect on prostate tissue.
Surprisingly, women are far more vulnerable to testosterone level changes than men. The reason is simple: they have so much less to work with (and even less if on The Pill) that when even a small amount of their available testosterone gets bound to SHBG, the results are profoundly disruptive — exhaustion and lack of sex drive, for example. Regular use of a women’s testosterone balancing formula can help to significantly reverse and/or prevent problems. Such a formula will contain many of the same herbs as a men’s formula including saw palmetto, wild oats, nettles, and puncture weed (tribulus terrestris) — plus ingredients such as mucuna pruriens and Siberian ginseng.
Every single man and women over 30 (and especially new fathers as we now know) should seriously consider putting their bodies on an ongoing hormonal balancing program to keep their energy, sex drive, and overall vigor in top shape for years to come.
1 Gettler, Lee T.; McDade, Thomas W.; Feranil, Alan B.; Kuzawa, Christopher W. “Longitudinal Evidence that Fatherhood Decreases Testosterone in Human Males.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 12 September 2011. National Academy of Sciences. 6 October 2011. <http://www.pnas.org/content/108/39/16194>.