Testosterone dip may benefit expectant lesbian couples

Previous research suggests that lower testosterone levels promote greater caregiving and nurturance. The new research looks at lesbian couples. (Credit: Getty Images)

Among expectant lesbian couples, lower testosterone during pregnancy—for both partners—predicted better relationship quality and more time spent taking care of the baby, research finds.

People tend to associate the hormone testosterone with males, competition, and dominance. However, women also have testosterone and it is also associated with caregiving and nurturance.

The majority of testosterone research focuses on heterosexual samples, which limits our understanding of how these findings generalize to non-heterosexual people, says Kristi Chin, a psychology graduate student at the University of Michigan and the study’s lead author.

Twenty-five lesbian couples between ages 18 and 45 provided saliva samples to measure testosterone each trimester during pregnancy and completed a questionnaire three months after their scheduled due date. The questionnaire assessed spousal support, division of household labor and infant care, parenting behaviors, and relationship quality.

Relationship quality and parenting behavior also depended on the partner’s testosterone levels: Mothers were more committed to partners and more overprotective of children when their partner’s testosterone was lower.

“Our findings contribute important new knowledge about the functionality of testosterone in close relationships contexts, including some of the first evidence among sexual minorities,” Chin says.

The results of the study, she says, are consistent with prior work involving expectant heterosexual couples, which suggests that lower testosterone levels promote greater caregiving and nurturance.

The study’s coauthors are from Michigan State University; Penn State; the University of Windsor; Chapman University; and the University of Michigan. Their findings appear in the journal Hormones and Behavior.

Source: University of Michigan