April 19, 2010 in Features

Mr. Dad: Fatherhood brings more risks at 45

Armin Brott
 

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m 45 and my wife is 35. We’ve been together for more than 10 years and have finally decided to have a family. I know that it may be harder for my wife to conceive than it would have been if she was a little younger.

But someone recently told her that my age could be a factor too. Is that true?

A: I hate to take sides, but your wife wins this round. Like most people, you know about the difficulties that women older than 35 have getting pregnant. But we rarely hear anything about how the father’s age affects fertility and beyond. Here’s a quick overview of the disadvantages and advantages of older fathers.

Disadvantages:

•Researchers at Bristol University in the United Kingdom found that men’s fertility begins to decrease at about age 24. The odds of conceiving within six months of trying go down 2 percent per year over that age.

•Sperm count decreases with age, and they lose their speed and accuracy, meaning fewer of them will make it all the way to the egg, and those that do will take a lot longer to get there.

•Sperm quality also decreases, starting when the man is about 35. That means that the ones that reach the egg are less able to fertilize it.

•A small number of very rare health risks and genetic conditions are associated with older dads. For example, compared to men younger than 30, dads older than 40 have a higher risk of fathering children with autism, schizophrenia, dwarfism, heart defects, facial abnormalities, epilepsy, and some childhood cancers.

•Advanced paternal age may also be associated with children’s lower IQ scores, increased risk of developing breast cancer and shortened lifespan. This may be why the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has set 40 as the upper limit for sperm donations. Some clinics have even lower limits.

•As you age, it may be a bit harder for you to do some of the physical things young dads do.

Advantages:

•Older dads are generally more financially secure, and they’re better able to provide for their family.

•Research indicates that older dads are more likely to share responsibility for taking care of their children.

•Older dads may also be warmer, more nurturing and focus more on their children than younger dads.

•Older dads rate themselves as being more patient, more mature and calmer.

•There is some indication that children of older dads do better in school. That’s probably at least partly due to some of the factors above.

•Being an older dad keeps you thinking and feeling young. You’re up on the latest culture, you hang out with younger couples, get to throw baseballs and go to school plays, and you’ll know who Lady Gaga and Jay-Z are.

Find resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com

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