Entries in fertility (12)


Catching Fertility

As a 40-something, married father of two, I’ve experienced a lot of transitions in my life, including some particularly big ones over the past decade or so. I started a new job, got married, had a kid, bought a house, and had another kid. Importantly, I’m not unique in this regard --- many of the people I know my age have gone through most, if not all, of these same transitions (albeit perhaps in a different order).

Although I didn’t really notice it at the time, my movement through these life transitions generally occurred in the ballpark of my friends doing the same things. How can I forget the ‘wedding years’, when I was finally forced to buy a suit. And then there was the breeding extravaganza that happened a few years later. Is it a coincidence that many of my friends also have kids within a few years age of my own? Perhaps not.  In fact, it’s very likely that the decisions my wife and I made about starting a family were influenced by what we saw going on around us.

Simply put, others influence our thoughts about fertility. For example, adolescents are more likely to become sexually active, and make choices about whether to do so and take appropriate precautions, if their friends are doing the same (You don’t use condoms? Then me neither! Let’s compare babies and rashes!). In a recent study, researchers wanted to see just how far a reach friends have on women’s sexual and fertility behaviors by testing whether female friends’ transitions to parenthood increase a given woman’s own transition to parenthood. Put another way: Is a woman’s fertility contagious?

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Vocal Cues of Fertility: Bachelor 19’s Whitney Bischoff May Be the Ultimate Prize

Full disclosure: Watching The Bachelor/ette is a huge guilty pleasure of mine. It’s fascinating not just for the entertaining drama, but also as a unique case study of relationship dynamics. If you’re unfamiliar, The Bachelor is a reality TV show in which 25-30 beautiful and presumably single women contend for the attention, love, and marriage proposal of one eligible gent over the course of about two months of filming. Every season is chock-a-block with romantic and often extravagant dates, profuse amounts of smooching, and (sometimes ridiculous) drama. (Disclaimer: Before I get to the meat of this article, I should make it clear that that while I find the show very amusing, I don’t find the format to be particularly realistic, nor do I feel like the format allows for a strong foundation that can foster a future long-term relationship to be built—though there seem to be a few happy exceptions.)

When I watch The Bachelor/ette, I love to shamelessly analyze the contestants and try to make connections to research (after all, I am a relationship science nerd). There are always a few contestants who stand out, for better or worse, and this season I’m a bit mesmerized with Whitney Bischoff in a good way. She seems very classy, but more than that, she has a very distinct voice. The pitch is quite high, and though some people might find it a bit intense, it may actually make her more appealing to our current Bachelor, Chris.

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Music to Her Ears: Female Fertility and the Sounds of Music

What is the point of music? Psychologist Stephen Pinker likens it to “auditory cheesecake,” a confection intended to tickle our neural pleasure circuits1 -- a jolt of enjoyment rather than a necessity for human survival. But 140 years ago, Charles Darwin was tinkering with another theory: that music’s true purpose is to impress the opposite sex.2 He recognised that birds don’t sing for pure joy, but to attract a mate or challenge rivals. Could music serve a similar function in humans?

Quite possibly. The lyrics of most pop songs are about relationships, with love at first sight, jealousy, and breakups being common themes. And it’s also plain that music stirs fierce emotions, from the screaming adulation that provided a second soundtrack to Beatlemania, to the Beliebers and Directioners of today whose online worshipping of their idols knows no bounds. But until recently, there’s been little hard evidence for Darwin’s theory that music is a method of sexual seduction.

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Pretty, and Fertile, in Pink

Ovulating women report increased sexual desire and preference for wearing sexy clothing compared to non-ovulating women.1,2 But does ovulation impact the color of clothing she chooses? A survey of “regularly ovulating” women (i.e., not on birth control pills, pregnant, etc.) reported their menstrual cycle’s timing and noted the color of the shirt they were currently wearing.3 Those ovulating and at their most fertile (6-14 days following the start of her last period) were more likely to wear red or pink compared to other colors, and of those wearing red or pink, nearly 80% were ovulating.

Read more about wearing red herefertility here, and behaviors related to ovulation here.

1Haselton, M. G., & Gangestad, S. W. (2006). Conditional expression of women’s desires and men’s mate guarding across the ovulatory cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 49, 509–518.

2Durante, K. M., Li, N. P., & Haselton, M. G. (2008). Changes in women’s choice of dress across the ovulatory cycle: Naturalistic and laboratory task–based evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1451–1460.

3Beall, A. T., & Tracy, J. L. (in press). Women more likely to wear red or pink at peak fertility. Psychological Science.


Under the Covers: Sexual Attitudes, Fertility, and Romantic Relationships

The average woman will have 500 menstrual cycles throughout her lifetime.1 Although menstruation typically doesn’t win the “favorite days of the month award,” the actual purpose of a woman’s cycle is to prepare her body for conception and procreation. Yet, the irony in Mother Nature’s plan is that the actual window of potential conception only lasts for roughly 2-4 days throughout the 28 day cycle. Among researchers, we call these few days the “period of high fertility,” or the time when women are most likely to conceive.

Many women (and probably even some men!) may have noticed that the days leading up to menstruation can be accompanied by mood swings (you’ve heard of PMS – right?). Yet, there’s a bundle of evidence showing that women’s moods, behaviors, and interpersonal styles actually change during that small window of high fertility as well. For example, during those few days (compared to other days in the cycle) women are more likely to dress sexy,2 they are more accepting of men’s advances,3 they prefer the scent of symmetrical4 and dominant men,5 and they’re even more likely to fantasize about someone other than their current boyfriend or spouse!6

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Sex Ed at Home (for Elementary-Aged Kids): Your Questions Answered

Our daughter was barely 3 years old when she started asking about the birds and the bees. She wanted to know how mommies got babies inside their tummies and how babies came out of their tummies. Her curiosity has always kept us on our toes. Our son (now nearly 8 years old), in stark contrast, has always been relatively uninterested in learning about the “facts of life.” The last time we raised the topic, he responded, “Do we have to talk about this stuff again? I just want to be a kid!”

Regardless of your child’s curiosity level, most parents find themselves broaching the topic of sex education at some point with their children.

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A New Take on the Link Between Fertility and Age

Most people will tell you that a woman's ability to get pregnant declines considerably after age 30. After age 35? Thank goodness for fertility clinics! But are these beliefs justified by the data? Turns out the link between female age and fertility isn't as clear-cut as some would have you believe. In a fascinating new article published in The Atlantic, social psychologist Jean Twenge breaks down what the data do -- and don't --- tell us about female fertility across the life-cycle. Yet another example of how it is important to rely on science, rather than prevailing public opinion, when making key life decisions.

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Stubble Trouble: How (Men’s) Facial Hair Affects Attraction 

Should men go for the clean-shaven look, a full beard, or somewhere in between when trying to attract a woman? To answer this question, researchers showed heterosexual women and heterosexual men photographs of men with full beards, heavy stubble, light stubble, or cleanly shaven faces. Importantly, the pictures were the same men but with different facial hair styles. Women found heavy stubble more attractive than the other styles. Interestingly, men thought full beards and clean-shaven were more attractive than women did. A follow-up study focusing on fertility indicated that women’s preference for heavy stubble was the same regardless of  menstrual cycle phase.

For more facial hair science, check out this article.

Dixson, B. J., & Brooks, R. C. (2013). The role of facial hair in women's perceptions of men's attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities. Evolution and Human Behavior, doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003


Pheromone Parties: The Sweet Smell of a Future Partner

Single people use a number of methods to find potential dates, such as going to bars, being fixed up by friends, online dating, or attending speed-dating events. How about choosing your next date based only on the smell of their stinky t-shirt? Sounds crazy, but an artist in Georgia has been throwing parties for singles where they do just that. Attendees bring a t-shirt they have worn to bed for the past three nights (without wearing any deodorant or perfume) to the party in a plastic bag. They then smell each other’s t-shirts and can introduce themselves to the people whose t-shirts they found most appealing. At one party, out of 40 attendees, a dozen people reportedly “hooked up”, and about half of them started relationships, which means roughly a third of the attendees found a match based on the smell of a t-shirt. Could smelling t-shirts be the best way to find that special someone? If so, what are people finding attractive about each other’s scents, and what does this mean for their later relationship success?

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Fabulous Face or Banging Body: Which is a More Important Characteristic in a Lover?

Will sculpting your body to perfection help you to find a romantic partner? Perhaps, but it may not be as important as another part of your anatomy (no, not that part; get your mind out of the gutter!). A recent study suggests that both men and women actually pay more attention to faces than they do to bodies when looking for a long-term lover.  When it comes to one-night stands, however, women still focus on the face, whereas men shift their priority to the body.

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NPR interview with Dr. John Maner and Dr. Martie Haselton

If you enjoyed last week's post on John Tierney's write-up about Saul Miller and Jon Maner's work, you might be interested in the new interview on NPR's On Point with Dr. Maner (Florida State University) and Dr. Martie Haselton (UCLA). Click here to check it out at the NPR site.


Ovulating Women: Hot or Not?

We're big fans of John Tierney at the New York Times, and in a recent post he discusses new research by Saul Miller and Jon Maner at Florida State University.1 Their work indicates that single men are more attracted to women who are ovulating, but that men in committed relationships are actually less attracted to those same ovulating women. In short, it's adaptive for males to want to mate with fertile females, but the motivation to protect one's current long-term relationship can counteract this effect as committed men downplay the attractiveness of others as a means of protecting their current relationship.2

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