You’ve seen the headlines. It seems like every year a celebrity Baby Boomer is fathering a child. Whether it was Billy Joel at age 66, Mick Jagger at 73, or George Lucas summoning the force at age 69, senior studs are still procreating. And it’s not just rock stars and Hollywood icons. Average Joes are making fatherhood at 50 the new thing. And why shouldn’t they? Guys can father a child at any age, right? Well, not exactly. While it’s true men continue to produce sperm into old age, it doesn’t mean they’ll be fertile at 50. And just as a woman’s chances of getting pregnant start to decline in her mid-30s, so does a man’s fertility. So if you’re a guy in the 40 and over club and you’re thinking of more offspring, pay attention.
Before digging into male factor infertility, let’s look at why guys are becoming dads later in life. Through the years, people have decided to get married later and ultimately delay having a family. And since the 1980s, couples have increasingly had children later in life. Since 1980, the birth rate in women over age 35 has increased by nearly 60% while the rate in women ages 20-34 has only increased by 10%. For men over 30, the birth rate has increased by 21% during that time, and by nearly 30% for men over 40. Despite the increase of pregnancies later in life, it doesn’t mean fertility comes easily.
MALE INFERTILITY INCREASES WITH AGE
Believe it or not, there is a male biological clock. Though it’s not the same as a women’s, it still is a key factor in infertility. According to studies, age causes a decline in semen volume and sperm motility—two key factors in male fertility. Men over 35 are about half as fertile as men under 25, and on average it takes men over 40 two years to get their partner pregnant while men under 25 take just 4.5 months.
Other eye-opening fertility issues include:
- For couples having IVF, the risk of not getting pregnant is five times higher if the man is over 41
- A man’s semen decreases continually beginning at age 20
- A woman under 25 is twice as likely to have a miscarriage if her male partner is over 45
The first step in deciding to have a baby at an older age is getting your fertility checked. For some, that means going to a clinic to provide a sperm sample. But if you want something more private, you can use SpermCheck, an over-the-counter male fertility test that measures your sperm count.
While most people are aware that the chance of having a genetically abnormal baby increases with a women’s age, research shows the same is true as men age. Random DNA mutations in a man’s sperm increase as he ages, and he passes those genetic mutations on to his offspring. These mutations increase the child’s odds of developing autism, schizophrenia and other diseases. The average 30-year old passes on about 55 mutations to his offspring and that number increases by two every year afterward. There are ways to slow DNA damage. Diets high in vitamin C, antioxidants, vitamin E, zinc, and folate can help prevent DNA damage from accumulating in sperm. Fathering a child later in life is no slam dunk. Sure you will produce sperm, but the amount and health of that sperm play a key role. So make sure you know your fertility status.