My Hormonology

Ever get “baby fever”–a sudden and intense desire to get pregnant?

A Hormonology reader wrote to me, telling me she’s getting hit with baby fever like clockwork every cycle. She writes:

“I get the urge in the middle of every month to get pregnant. Is this normal? What can I do to avoid it?”

If you have a healthy, natural monthly cycle, you can probably relate. That’s because your brain and body are pulling a few tricks to try to get you pregnant during ovulation. Even if you’re not ready for motherhood or you’ve already had all the kids you’ve decided to have or you’ve chosen a child-free path, your brain and body are still responding to an ancient evolutionary push to procreate to continue the human species.

One key way they do this? They make you go go-ga over cute babies during ovulation.

Your egg makes adorable infants irresistible

Next time you see an adorable baby with big eyes, chubby cheeks and a button nose during your ovulation, try to notice how many times you oooh and aaaah over her or him. Chances are, it’s far more frequent than during other times in your cycle. And there’s a reason for that:

During ovulation, cuter-than-cute babies trigger a bigger surge of pleasant emotions than you’d experience on other cycle days, according to a study in the journal Hormones and Behavior.

Researchers suspect this change has something to do with a spike in testosterone on these cycle days, since this hormone ratchets up reward sensations in the brain, boosting your mood whenever you see a sweet, gurgling, wide-eyed infant face staring up at you. However, other research suggests it can also be due to other hormones, such as oxytocin and prolactin, making you more sensitive to cuteness cues in baby faces.

Your hormones have a back-up plan to get you pregnant

Just in case you’re able to resist the adorableness of babies around you, your hormones have a backup plan for getting you to fertilize your egg during ovulation: They make you sexier–even if you don’t purposely try to be–as a way to bring more romantic partners your way.

How? For starters, research shows that high estrogen during Week 2 of your cycle (the week leading up to and including ovulation) is pushing to choose outfits that show off more of your figure, either because they’re clingier, more revealing or both.

This elevated hormone is also prompting you to pick more feminine colors to wear (such as pink and red), use more accessories (such as earrings or bracelets), put on more makeup and take more time to perfect your hair and other aspects of your physical appearance.

But, even if you resist this hormone-fueled temptation to gussy up, estrogen is making you more irresistible to others in ways you have no control over: It’s making you more feminine and attractive by creating subtle shifts in soft tissue in your face that make your eyes, nose, lips and ears more symmetrical and evening out your skin tone. And it’s giving your cheeks a healthy glow by improving blood flow to the skin.

And estrogen doesn’t stop there. It also prompts changes in your voice, making your words sound more melodic.

And some believe it also triggers a higher output of pheromones–scentless chemicals in your sweat that transmit the message that you’re ovulating–which is like a beacon hailing any potential partners within a five-foot radius.

Your hormones bring out your inner flirt

High estrogen has one more trick up its sleeve to get you pregnant: It makes you more flirtatious–in ways you may not even be aware of.

For instance, it makes you more outgoing, friendly and talkative to get you to connect with more potential love interests.

You’re paying more compliments and make sexually suggestive comments to objects of your affection.

And you’re swaying your hips more as you pass by someone you find attractive as a way to boost your femininity and desirability.

What can you do to thwart baby fever?

Baby fever is obviously a result of biological processes that are out of your control when you have a natural cycle. Research shows that these effects are less common when you’re on hormone birth control that blocks ovulation (such as the Pill) and when you’re in menopause. But, barring the drastic steps of putting in hormones or taking out ovaries, here are my suggestions for avoiding caving to your body and brain’s pressure tactics to get you pregnant at a time when you don’t really want to be:

  1. During your Week 2, avoid fanning the flames of baby fever by running in the opposite direction whenever baby buggies approach. Not seeing smiling, gurgling, adorable cherubs will make them easier to resist–kind of like the way you hide the cupcakes and chips during your premenstrual week.
  2. When baby fever hits, remind yourself of all the downsides of having a baby, for instance, the time involved, the expense required and the fact that you just got a new white couch.
  3. If you can’t resist the urge for something adorable to love, then adopt an abandoned pet, cultivate an indoor or outdoor garden or sign up to be a mentor to a child at risk who needs a caring person like you in their life.