Feeling broody? We look at the science behind the ticking biological clock

Posted on August 16th, 2018

One day you swear you’ll never have a baby and the next you’re cooing over baby booties. Sr Burgie Ireland explains what’s going on.

Feeling broody? The science behind the ticking biological clock

Broodiness is a real and powerful emotion that overrides inhibitions of intimacy, the fears of pregnancy and birth, and the realities of rearing a family. For women struggling with fertility issues, feeling broody has been described as emotionally draining and even physically painful.

ALSO SEE: 3 common infertility issues and how to treat them

Broodiness can be triggered by the cry of a newborn and settle over you like a blanket in a baby store. It can affect any woman from about the age of 18 onwards – from the stoic ‘childless by choice’ to struggling-to-get-pregnant women, mothers with a troop of offspring, successful celebrities, career women, premenopausal and even postmenopausal women.

Clues that you are broody

  • You look forward to going to baby showers and take an extravagant gift.
  • You can’t resist the urge to peep into a stroller and stop to talk to women with babies.
  • You offer to look after your friend’s baby at every opportunity.
  • Maternity dresses look appealing.
  • You find yourself rolling up your dressing gown and sticking it under your dress to see what you would look like if you were pregnant.
  • Your periods become erratic and irregular – you may even experience skipped periods and a few of the symptoms of pregnancy, like painful breasts and morning sickness.
  • You start collecting baby clothes and even choose a name and godparents for your ‘baby’.
  • You start hinting to your partner how nice it would be to have a baby.

ALSO SEE: 3 thoughts every mom has during her second pregnancy

What’s going on?

A woman’s mothering instincts are mostly triggered by her senses – the picture of a mother holding her baby, hearing a baby cry, the smell of a newborn, or the touch of a baby’s soft skin.
Broodiness is also hormonal. During ovulation, when both your oestrogen and progesterone levels peak, a woman’s libido is in full swing and she is particularly loving – not only towards her partner, but also her babies and small children. Sex releases hormones like endorphins (a natural morphine), oxytocin (the love or ‘bonding’ hormone) and dopamine (the ‘feel-good’ hormone). All these are in favour of baby-making.

Men can also feel broody. Sex releases vasopressin, the hormone that bonds a man to his mate and their offspring. Babies and little children can also do this for men. In fact, 26-year-old Sam Smith once tweeted: “Met the cutest kid in the world last night. Getting BROODY. I can’t wait to be a dad one day.”

The fertility struggle

Broody women and couples who are struggling with fertility issues have a double whammy to deal with. The arrival of a period can be discouraging and sex can become a baby-making performance rather than a chance to connect. Friends and family stop asking when they will hear the pitter-patter of little feet and internet searches become focused on fertility clinics and adoption.

ALSO SEE: 5 reasons you’re not falling pregnant

Practical tips

  • Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t skip contraceptives, visit your gynaecologist or investigate fertility treatments without discussing it with your partner first.
  • Volunteer to look after a baby and appreciate the enormous, time-consuming responsibility as well as the oodles of patience that parenting requires.
  • Do the maths. Can you financially afford another baby – or a baby at this stage of your life?
  • If you have fertility treatments, are you prepared for the risks that include cost, the possibility of failure and multiples.
Living And Loving Staff

About Living And Loving Staff

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