Experts from Rutgers University in the United States have recently found that men who delay fathering kids may put the health of their partners and unborn children at risk.
Their finding was contained in a study, which reviewed 40 years of research regarding the effect of parental age on fertility, pregnancy and the health of children, and published in the journal Maturitas.
Author of the study, Gloria Bachmann, a director of the Women’s Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explained that “While it is widely accepted that physiological changes that occur in women after 35 can affect conception, pregnancy and the health of the child, most men do not realise their advanced age can have a similar impact.”
Bachmann added that, while the medical profession has no clearly accepted definition of when advanced paternal age begins, it ranges from 35 to 45.
The study found that men 45 and older can experience decreased fertility and put their partners at risk for increased pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth.
Additionally, infants born to older fathers were found to be at higher risk of premature birth, late stillbirth, low Apgar scores, low birth weight, higher incidence of newborn seizures and birth defects, such as congenital heart disease and cleft palate. As they matured, these children were found to have an increased likelihood of childhood cancers, psychiatric and cognitive disorders, and autism.
Bachmann linked most of these outcomes to a natural decline in testosterone that occurs with aging, as well as sperm degradation and poorer semen quality. She however said that some correlations need more research. “In addition to advancing paternal age being associated with an increased risk of male infertility, there appears to be other adverse changes that may occur to the sperm with aging. For example, just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose ‘fitness’ over the life cycle,” she said.
Damage to sperm from stresses of aging can lead to a decrease in sperm number and a change in the sperm and egg that is passed from parent to offspring and becomes incorporated into the DNA of cells in the offspring’s body. “In addition to decreasing fertilisation potential, this can also influence the pregnancy itself, as is noted by increased pregnancy risks when conception is successful,” Bachmann explained.
The study also found that older men struggled with fertility issues even if their partner was below 25.
“While women tend to be more aware and educated than men about their reproductive health, most men do not consult with physicians unless they have a medical or fertility issue,” Bachmann said.
She recommended that physicians counsel older men as they do older women on the effect their age will have on conception, pregnancy and the health of their child.
The study recommends that men who plan on delaying fatherhood should consider banking their sperm before their 35th or at least by their 45th birthday to decrease the increased risks to the health of the mother and child.