As medical science advances, so too does the viable age for parenthood. But what risks are present when older fathers are involved? There are some, and it’s best that potential older fathers are aware of what lies in store for them.
When it comes to age and parenthood, doctors and psychiatrists must often walk the line between encouragement and setting realistic expectations for their clients. For women, the biological clock that governs their ability to bear children is more immediately obvious. But what about men? Is there an upper age limit for when men can have children, and what implications does the dad’s age have for the child-to-be?
As it turns out, there are potential complications for the unborn child that may arise when they have either an older mother or father. For example, a study came out earlier in 2017 that noted a declining live birth rate for in vitro fertilization (IVF) as the father ages past 40. The potential for a non-live birth from an IVF child increases with the father’s increasing age, as well.
Like we mentioned earlier, men do not have a set end point to their fertility in the same way that women do. Many men are able to produce viable sperm well into their gray old age — but that doesn’t mean that they are producing the same genetic material they would have 30 years earlier.
In addition to the new IVF study mentioned above, there are other known risks for the unborn child that are directly affected by the father’s age. A 2014 study notes that becoming a father at age 45 or later almost certainly increases the child’s risk of developing “schizophrenia, autism, and other psychiatric disorders.” But why would this happen? Well, consider that as the body changes and ages, so does our DNA, which can mutate in unfavorable ways and have a harder time replicating healthy, favorable versions of itself.
These mutations can basically “scramble the signal” of the DNA and result in a child with disorders or complications. However, the scientific community is not in full agreement that spontaneous sperm DNA mutation is the reason why older fathers are at risk of having children with these problems. It may also simply have to do with other correlations involving why people choose to become parents at a later age.
If you’re getting up there in age and are concerned about the risks involved with fathering a child in your middle to older age, you might want to consider banking (freezing) your sperm for use in the future. Your younger sample will give you a better shot at passing on DNA that is less mutated and more likely to result in a healthy, happy baby when the time is right.