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 date01/07/2019
Publication date online10/04/2019
Date accepted by journal31/03/2019

People (3)


Dr Colin Moran

Dr Colin Moran

Associate Professor, Sport

Professor Craig Roberts

Professor Craig Roberts

Professor of Social Psychology, Psychology

Miss Francesca Singleton

Miss Francesca Singleton

Student Administration Coordinator (Prg), Psychology