When people think about the role of men in abortion, it seems that they usually think about the stereotype of the man who forces the abortion or the male who abandons. However, there are many roles the man may have played in the experience.
There is some recent research from Canada that might shed some insight into why men do have feelings about abortion losses.
Anthropologists in primitive cultures have long recognized that in certain societies men experience symptoms of pregnancy with their wives. It is called “couvade”. Couvade has a long history and the word comes from the French verb couver which means “to hatch or to brood..” Estimates are the 20% to 80% of men may have this experience in western culture. It is possible that it would be set off by the perception of pheremones (scent molecules of affiliation that send messages about our reproductive status, cause women to cycle together, help us to identify our infants, and signal our immune system information to possible mates). Pheremones play a role in sexual attraction and it seems that males respond to the scent of a fertile woman by elevated testosterone and arousal, but that males also seem to be able to perceive a non-fertile female, which would include a pregnant woman. The bottom line is that something seems to signal her state to her partner and perhaps his body responds hormonally to the message.
Research has been done on the hormonal status of males whose partner is pregnant and the research outcomes are startling. As birth approaches, the father of the child undergoes measurable hormonal shifts, including decreased testosterone making him less aggressive and sexually interested, elevated estrogen making him more relational, elevated cortisol which seems to put him on alert that something important is happening, elevated vasopressin, a bonding hormone present during intercourse, but present now in large amounts—perhaps Mother Nature’s “sit, stay” imperative to help protect the mother and finally around the time of birth, the male gets prolactin which is the nursing hormone in women. It seems that the more prolactin is present the father is very helpful and smiles a lot while being responsive to his infant. Research indicates that when the hormones readjust, his testosterone never goes as high as it was in his bachelor days. And interestingly, in primate research where the male monkey helps to care for the young, they get new brain cells in the part of the brain that has to do with decision-making and planning and the cells remain until the young become independent. We don’t know if something similar happens in people, but I would hazard a guess that it might.
Men are truly changed by a pregnancy experience. Below are three articles that lay out the information in more detail. My premise is that it would seem that the fact of a couple’s pregnancy might trigger significant changes in the male that may impact his reaction to an abortion loss. There is much to be learned yet, but it indicates that an achieved pregnancy seems to have biological impact on the male as well as on the female. It is possible then that the loss is recognized in a deep way by the male? Much is to be discovered yet.