Preparation For Fatherhood: A Role For Olfactory Communication During Human Pregnancy?


Allen C, Cobey K, Havlíček J, Singleton F, Hahn A, Moran C & Roberts C (2019) Preparation For Fatherhood: A Role For Olfactory Communication During Human Pregnancy?. Physiology and Behavior, 206, pp. 175-180.

There is evidence across a range of bi-parental species that physiological changes may occur in partnered males prior to the birth of an infant. It has been hypothesised that these hormonal changes might facilitate care-giving behaviours, which could augment infant survival. The mechanism that induces these changes has not been identified, but evidence from several species suggests that odour may play a role. The current study investigated this in humans by recording testosterone and psychological measures related to infant interest and care in men (n=91) both before and after exposure to odours from either pregnant women or non-pregnant control women. We found no evidence for an effect of odour cues of pregnancy on psychological measures including self-reported sociosexual orientation and social dominance scores, ratings of infant or adult faces, or testosterone levels. However, we found that brief exposure to post-partum odours significantly increased the reward value of infant faces. Our study is the first to show that the odour of peri-partum women may lead to upregulation of men’s interest in infants.

Olfactory communication; Pregnancy; Testosterone; Bi-parental care

Physiology and Behavior: Volume 206

Publication date31/07/2019
Publication date online30/04/2019
Date accepted by journal31/03/2019