Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Preparation for fatherhood: A role for olfactory communication during human pregnancy?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Caroline AllenORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


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 effect of odour cues of pregnancy on psychological measures including self-reported sociosexual orientation and social dominance scores, ratings of 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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Allen C, Cobey KD, Havlicek J, Singleton FP, Hahn AC, Moran CN, Roberts SC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Physiology and Behavior

Year: 2019

Volume: 206

Pages: 175-180

Print publication date: 01/07/2019

Online publication date: 10/04/2019

Acceptance date: 31/03/2019

Date deposited: 16/04/2019

ISSN (print): 0031-9384

ISSN (electronic): 1873-507X

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.03.030


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric