Health Information

Dads are getting older

More and more men are leaving it until later to start a family, as a result the average age of fathers, as well as mothers, is increasing. While childbearing for women naturally comes to an end at the menopause, men can and do go on fathering children into their 50s, 60s and 70s. Unlike the age of the mother, the impact of the age of the father on fertility and the health of their children has not received as much publicity. However, it seems that there are just as many risks associated with men trying to start a family when they are older as for women, and not just for infertility.

Age on conception and your child’s health

The effects of age on sperm are not just limited to a decline in volume, shape and motility, unfortunately there is growing evidence that older fathers run increased risks of fathering offspring with genetic abnormalities and other long term health problems. This is because older men have more sperm with mutations within the DNA in their semen. Both younger and older men develop damaged or unhealthy sperm but usually a process called apoptosis eliminates any defective sperm developing in the testis, so that mostly healthy sperm get through into the ejaculate. A study published in 2003 found that there was a significantly higher percentage of damaged sperm in the semen samples of men aged 36-57 years than in those of men aged 20-35 years, and that apoptosis did not occur as efficiently in the older men in their study.

What to do?

Young couples planning on having children together may be best advised not to put off starting a family for too long; not just because of decreases in fertility with age but also to reduce the chances of having a child with a genetic abnormality or long-term health problem.

There is nothing any of us can do about getting older. However, there is plenty you can do to look after yourself, whatever age you are. Following a healthy diet and lifestyle can improve the quality of your own life, boost your fertility and if you do father a child, ensure that you give that baby the best start in life.

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