Lower testosterone during the transition to new parenthood is considered beneficial to help parents better engage with their infants. No data currently exist studying salivary testosterone of parents with infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) during the transition to home. We examine testosterone levels for parents of very low-birth-weight infants, including links between salivary testosterone and infant factors (such as breast-feeding), psychosocial stress, and changes over time.
Testosterone salivary samples were assayed after self-collection by 86 parents (43 fathers and 43 mothers) with NICU infants at wakeup and bedtime prior to discharge and at 3 additional times at home. Self-reported survey measures, including psychosocial reports, were also collected at these times.
Using multilevel modeling approaches, we report significant associations between paternal testosterone by time and psychosocial adjustment and between both paternal and maternal testosterone and infant feeding mode (P < .05). Results were significant after accounting for covariates. Our study is the first to examine the time course of diurnal testosterone for parents of premature infants over the transition home; as such, we suggest further research into better understanding parental physiology in this vulnerable parent population.