Women’s voice pitch (the perceptual correlate of fundamental frequency, F0) varies across the menstrual cycle and lowers after menopause, and may represent a putative signal of women’s fertility and reproductive age. Yet, despite dramatic changes in women’s sex hormone levels and bodies during and after pregnancy, previous between-subject and case studies have not found systematic changes in F0 due to pregnancy. Here, we tracked within-individual variation in 20 mothers’ voices during their first pregnancy, as well as up to 5 years before conception and 5 years postpartum. Voice recordings from 20 age-matched nulliparous women were measured as a control. Linear Mixed Models indicated that F0 mean, range and variation changed significantly following pregnancy in mothers, controlling for age at time of recording, whereas we did not observe any F0 changes across corresponding timeframes in our sample of nulliparous controls. Mothers’ voices became significantly lower-pitched and more monotonous during the first year postpartum compared to during pregnancy or before. These F0 parameters did not decrease within-individuals over a 5-year period prior to conception above and beyond the effects of ageing. Although voice pitch decreased following pregnancy, mothers’ F0 parameters reverted after the first year postpartum, approaching pre-pregnancy levels. Our results demonstrate that pregnancy has a transient and perceptually salient masculinizing effect on women’s voices.”

Pisanski, K., Bhardwaj, K., & Reby, D. (2018). Women’s voice pitch lowers after pregnancy. Evolution and Human Behavior39(4), 457-463.

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