Tick tock daddy o’clock alert – as alarm bells ring for men who want children. Men’s fertility does not last a lifetime after all. Not by a long country mile, according to recent academic studies.
So, while the average man’s fertility doesn’t nose dive off a cliff when he hits 35, age has major implications for those hoping for fatherhood.
Women in this country traditionally shoulder the burden of fertility concerns, investigations and treatment. Now at last, the research spotlight is being turned on the Cinderella of male reproductive care. The findings are disturbing.
Men’s fertility generally is on the decline globally, and the age thing plays a major role at an individual level. Here’s why. By the time they hit the middle age milestone of 35, men may notice a softening middle and a few more distinguishing greys taking up residence. Sadly, what they often fail to consider is that it will take them up to five times longer to achieve pregnancy now than it does for a young man aged 24. Five times longer. In comparison, for a 35-year-old woman, it’s only double the time to pregnancy of an average 24-year-old.
For safety reasons, sperm banks only accept donations from men who are younger than the 35-year age cutoff point. Sperm damage in the older male accounts for decreased natural fertility, delay in getting pregnant, and impaired natural fertilization, as well as in intrauterine insemination, IUI, and IVF fertility treatment.
Risks for Women with Older Partners
A major new study, published in the journal Maturitas, reveals that partners of older men are at serious risk of pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth. Just a five-year difference in age can change the picture completely.
There’s a nearly 30% increase in risks imposed by older fathers. Babies born to geriatric fathers are likely to be less healthy at birth and have a low birth weight, show a low APGAR* score, and be prone to newborn seizures.
As well as problems for mom and infant at birth there’s an increase in birth defects including congenital heart defects and cleft palate. Children of older fathers have an increased risk of developing autism, childhood cancer, and psychiatric disorders. The autism link rises in fathers from the age of 30.
Why does this happen?
Ageing is a normal part of life and men are NOT immune. Testosterone levels do drop naturally with the years. This leads to more damaged sperm being produced, and increased levels of sub-optimal semen – all with alarming consequences for fertility.
Many couples choose to delay family building until careers are established. For others, commitment in a relationship may seem too demanding in an age of Tinder liaisons.
However virile and libidinous a man may believe he is, it’s not a real indicator of his fertility, or his capacity to father a healthy child. Fertility treatments such as IUI, IVF and ICSI offer hope to infertile men. These are costly and have relatively low success rates per investment.
What can you do?
Men need to protect their ‘fertility capital’ by following a healthy lifestyle. This means eating well with dietary supplements, avoiding weight gain, getting adequate sleep, avoiding risky sexual behaviour, reducing alcohol intake. Other lifestyle tips to foster fertility include maintaining healthy relationships, managing stress and taking regular safe exercise. Fertility awareness involves regular sperm analysis and DNA fragmentation tests. Medical, sexual health and dental check-ups form part of fertility hygiene for any man hoping to become a father.