The battle of the sexes just got a lot more equalized.
Anew studyout of Rutgers University finds thatmen have a ticking “biological clock” — just like women — and if they make babies in their 40s it can negatively impact the health of their partners and progeny.
“While it’s widely accepted that physiological changes that occur in women after 35 can affect conception, pregnancy and the health of the child, most men don’t realize their advanced age can have a similar impact,” says study author Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women’s Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in a statement.
The number of infants born to dads aged 45-plus spiked 10 percent in the US over the past four decades, likely due to assisted reproductive technology. Bachmann analyzedthe effect of “advanced parental age” — brace yourself: it ranges from 35 to 45 — on fertility, pregnancy and the health of childrenfor her study published in the journal Maturitas.
Guys who start siring spawn later in life put their lovers at risk for increased pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preterm birth and preeclampsia. Plus, the resulting babies were found to be at higher risk of premature birth, late-term still birth, low Apgar scores and birth weight, higher incidence of newborn seizures and birth defects such as congenital heart disease and cleft palate.
As they grew up, the offspring exhibited an increased likelihood of childhood cancers, psychiatric and cognitive disorders, and autism, Bachmann reports.
“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,” she says. “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.”
The “stresses of aging” can lead to a change in the sperm and egg that’s passed from parent to offspring to become incorporated into the DNA of cells in the infant’s body.
“In addition to decreasing fertilization potential, this can also influence the pregnancy itself, as is noted by increased pregnancy risks when conception is successful,” Bachmann said.
“Although it’s well-documented that children of older fathers are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia — one in 141 infants with fathers under 25 versus one in 47 with fathers over 50 — the reason is not well understood,” she adds. “Also, some studies have shown that the risk of autism starts to increase when the father is 30, plateaus after 40 and then increases again at 50.”
Docs should counsel men the same way they do women: face the effect their age will have on conception, pregnancy and the health of their child, Bachmann says.
And if fellas plan on delaying fatherhood, they should consider banking sperm before their 35th — or at least by their 45th — birthday to lower the risks to the mother and child.