Men should consider banking sperm in their mid 30s to avoid putting the health of their unborn children at risk, a new study suggests.
The study at Rutgers University looked at four decades of research into paternal age and fertility, and concluded that men have more of a ‘biological clock’ than tends to be acknowledged – older men fathering children involved as many risks as older women doing so, researchers said.
The natural decline in testosterone and lower quality semen in ageing men can contribute to an increased likelihood of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia in pregnancy, as well as premature birth, stillbirth, low birth weight, newborn seizures and various birth defects – according to the study.
Apgar scores (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration) – a health check done by hospital staff on newborns – were generally found to be lower in infants with older fathers. And incidents of childhood cancers, schizophrenia and psychiatric and cognitive disorders were also found to be higher.
A similar study last year stressed that these increases were all modest, but paternal age was something that should be taken into account.
More babies are being born to older fathers – over the last 40 years, the number of children born to men over 45 has gone up by 10% in the US, while the British Office of National Statistics points out that the average ages of mothers and fathers of all babies is consistently rising.
“Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose ‘fitness’ over the life cycle,” said the paper’s lead author Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women’s Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
The paper recommended that men planning to start a family have the same conversations with their doctors that women do when it comes to age. It also recommends giving consideration to freezing your sperm, before 35 or at least before 45.
Normal storage is for 10 years, but it can be extended up to 55. There are medical reasons for not allowing it to be extended any further – but it’s also hard to imagine a situation where you might be in need of sperm 55 years after producing it.