babyEver get sudden pangs to have a baby? Even though it was totally the wrong time in your life to have one? Or you don’t even plan to have any–or any more?

Your cycle could be playing a key role in your bout of “baby fever”.

No surprise, right? I mean, let’s face it, by now you know that most of the effects your hormones have on you are to push you to procreate.

And, you can probably guess the most obvious of these procreate-y hormonal effects, such as rising estrogen motivating you to dress up and flirt during the first half of your cycle. And rising testosterone revving your desire for physical intimacy as you lead up to ovulation in the middle of your cycle.

What may be a bit of a surprise, however, is one other pretty sneaky way your cycle motivates you to broaden your brood:

Turns out, you like cute baby faces more during ovulation.

Which would, of course, explain why during the end of Week 2 of your cycle, you might run over to someone’s adorable infant and absolutely beg to hold it. Or why you might suddenly stop in your tracks on the sidewalk to get a longer glimpse of a little gurgly cutie-patootie passing by you in a stroller.

Strangely though, researchers haven’t yet agreed which hormone is behind your spike in adoring cute baby faces:

One new study in Hormones and Behavior seems to rule out estrogen, testosterone and progesterone as the likely culprits–and suggests other hormones may be behind it, such as oxytocin and prolactin.

On the other hand, another new study in the same journal suggests a mid-cycle rise in testosterone is likely behind the baby-craves–which is intriguing since this is a hormone usually considered to give us traditionally “masculine” characteristics, such as competitiveness, impulsiveness and confidence. So, what gives? The researchers have a few theories. For instance, it may be that testosterone makes you a bit more picky about what you consider cute, making you go ga-ga when you see a baby who’s just too adorable for words. Or it may be that because this hormone ratchets up reward sensations, it boost your mood even more than usual to see a sweet, smiling, totally cheek-pinchable baby face.

No matter which hormone is causing your heart to race when you spot an adorable cuddley-wuddley, a study from 2009 in the journal Psychological Science seems to confirm it’s one that’s part of your monthly menstrual cycle. That’s because it found that cycling women had a stronger positive reaction to cute baby faces than either men or menopausal women (those who no longer have monthly cycles).

Okay, so now that you know you’re more susceptible to going bananas over a cute baby face during ovulation, are you planning to look for more baby faces at this time in your cycle–or avoid them like the plague? I think I’ll look for them–because, you know, I always love doing anything that gives me a fast, easy bump in mood. But, I’ll also keep a list of prices for braces and college tuitions nearby so I don’t make any big decision without seriously thinking it through.

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[Photo: Iain Watson]