The supposed ticking of a proverbial “biological clock” has long been something attributed to aging women but new science tells us that the very same bell may also toll for men. A study from researchers at Rutgers University add that men who delay starting a family also have something like a biological clock and, as such, waiting too long to have children could put those children—and even their partner—at greater risk for health issues.
Study author Gloria Bachmann advises that although the physiological changes that women experience after age 35 pose “widely accepted” risks for conception and pregnancy, as well as the child’s health, “most men do not realize their advanced age can have similar impact.”
This new study examined the possible effects that parental age can have on things like fertility, pregnancy, and the health of a child by analyzing 40 years of research. While there is no globally-accepted definition of “advanced age” when it comes to matters of paternity, the medical conclusion is that it would likely be between 35 and 45. That in mind, the number of babies born to fathers older than 45 has grown 10 percent in recent years; many scientist attribute this to better reproductive technology.
If the higher birth rate of older fathers means anything it is simply that men are more likely to believe that they can have healthy babies at any age. And while there may be truth to that, the researchers are hoping to caution that an older father can pose more risk than a younger one. While statistics have generally warned women of such risks, it is necessary now to include men in the very same way.
For example, men who are older than 45 may experience lower overall fertility. This, then, can put a partner at risk for various complications related to pregnancy, including: preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, and gestational diabetes. In addition, children born to men of “advanced age” are, apparently, at greater risk for late stillbirth, lower Apgar scores, or lower birth rate. These babies may also be at higher risk for newborn seizures and certain birth defects, including cleft palate and even congenital heart disease.
The director of the Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Women’s Health Institute, Bachman theorizes that the natural decline in testosterone in “advanced” ages—combined with poorer semen and sperm quality—can cause such outcomes. Of course, more research is necessary.
This study has been published in the journal Maturitas.