It isn’t just women whose fertility changes with age: Men’s fertility also declines

It is well-known that women’s fertility declines with age. In fact, the majority of research on age-related fertility decline has been focused on women. However, recent research findings indicate that men’s fertility also declines with age. This research is timely, given the fact that men are also delaying parenthood or having second families into their 40s, 50s and even beyond.

Research exploring reproductive aging in men is a relatively new area of study. Studies are consistently showing that although the ability to produce sperm does not change as men age, the motility, quality, and volume of their sperm significantly decreases with advanced age. In addition, women conceiving a child with an older man have been found to have higher rates of miscarriage. Moreover, a landmark study conducted by Dr. Kári Stefánsson in Iceland suggests that the number of genetic mutations present in men’s sperm increases as men age, which may be passed on to a man’s offspring. Older fathers appear to be at increased risk for passing on a number of health conditions to their offspring, such as learning disabilities, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder, and low birth weight. Says Stefánsson,

“Now it turns out there’s nothing except for Down’s syndrome that seems to be at risk when it comes to maternal age. Women have been unjustly blamed for birth defects for years, when we should have been far more careful when it comes to the older father.”

Clearly there is more research that needs to be done to further understand men’s fertility decline, as well as its relationship to the health and development of children born to older fathers. Based on current research findings, what seems clear is that men’s fertility also declines with age, and the offspring of older men are at greater risk of being born with some significant health problems.

Given that sperm freezing and storage is a relatively inexpensive and safe way to preserve fertility, younger men who are not yet ready to have children but hope to become a father in the future may want to consider fertility preservation through sperm freezing. Older men considering fathering a child may want to consult their physician or fertility specialist about the implications of this choice for their potential future offspring.

To read more about this issue, click here:

The dangers of older dads [Macleans]

To read more about the “male biological clock”, click here.

To read more about fertility preservation options for men, click here.


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