Maternal factors evaluating birth risks have been preeminent in society, but current studies are revealing that advanced paternal age also comes with significant health ramifications. In fact, understanding a father’s biological role has become a pivotal source of comprehensive studies with more and more men becoming fathers past the age of 40. Essentially, men’s biological clocks, in a way, are also ticking and it’s about time.
A recent study of more than 40.5 million births in the United States revealed potentially harmful effects of advanced paternal age on a baby’s risk of prematurity, low birth weight, low Apgar score and risk of seizures, as well as the mother’s chances of developing gestational diabetes.
The study, directed by Dr. Michael L. Eisenberg, a urologist and head of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, concluded that “more than 12 percent of births to fathers aged 45 years or older with adverse outcomes might have been prevented were the fathers younger.”
More specifically, fathers older than 45 had a 14 percent greater chance than fathers in their 20s and 30s of their babies being born prematurely. As the advanced in age, their babies were more likely to depend on breathing assistance and ultimately require neonatal intensive care. Furthermore, mothers also faced a 28 percent increased risk of gestational diabetes.
An earlier review conducted by Eisenberg and Dr. Simon L. Conti, clinical assistant professor of urology at Stanford reveals less distinguishable factors at birth. They discovered that paternal aging was linked to an increased risk of babies born with congenital diseases such as dwarfism or developing psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and developmental ones like autism.
Despite the fact that men continuously produce new sperm after puberty, the quality of a their 'swimmers' has been known to come into question. Eisenberg explains that semen quality diminishes - more specifically, volume lessens and the motility and shape of sperm decline a little. In a nutshell - lessening the capacity of a man’s sperm to fertilize an egg.
Dr. Eisenberg and colleagues suggest mutations appear to be the culprit - both occurring and accumulating in the DNA of sperm-forming cells, and environmental exposures can change the genes in sperm themselves affecting growth factors for both the placenta and the embryo.
Not exclusive to women, a man’s preconception health is also a monumental factor. Dr. Hilary K. Brown, a researcher in reproductive public health at the University of Toronto notes that obesity, chronic disease and behaviors like smoking and alcohol consumption that could potentially affect the health of a pregnancy.
Men’s Health, shares that a woman’s fertility eventually ends, while men typically father into their later years, noting there’s no expiration date on when guys can father a child. Case in point: Rocker Mick Jagger just had his eighth child at the age of 73, and the truth is, more and more men are choosing to do so.
Despite the trending data, Eisenberg asserts drastic measures need not be taken. He claims his findings represent an ‘informational ammunition’ for people planning a family and hopes that they will serve to educate the public and health officials.
“If you buy two lottery tickets instead of one, your chances of winning double, so it’s increased by 100 percent,” he said. “But that’s a relative increase. Because your chance of winning the lottery started very small, it’s still unlikely that you’re going to win the lottery. This is a very extreme example, but the same concept can be applied to how you think about these birth risks,” - Science Daily.