Quick: what are some things worth waiting for in life? A beach sunrise and perfectly-poured Guinness fit the bill, we think.
And what about the big stuff—like that dream job and well-planned retirement? Those are no-brainers.
But waiting to become a dad at an older age is a lot less clear-cut. There are definitely plenty of reasons why one could make the argument that it’s the way to go, but also lots of downsides to the decision. Let’s discuss.
Being an older dad is #trending
People magazine refers to them as the “Older Dads Club,” the increasing number of male celebrities who are experiencing the joys of gender-reveals well past 40. Eddie Murphy, 57, just welcomed his second child with his Australian-model wife and 66-year-old actor Jeff Goldblum recently had a baby with his wife, who’s a dancer and gymnast. In 2017, then 69-year-old Billy Joel announced he and his wife, Alexis, had a daughter. And rocker Mick Jagger—whose oldest child was 48 at the time—fathered his eighth child at the ripe old age of 75.
It’s not just celebrities who are fathering children later in life. Since 1972, the average age of fathers of newborns in the U.S. has risen from 27 to about 31. According to a recent study, about 9 percent of the 4 million births each year have a dad over 40 and 400,000 of those babies are fathered by guys over 50. “This surprised me,” Michael Eisenberg, an assistant professor of urology at Stanford University Medical Center and the senior author of the study, tells NPR.
The risks of fatherhood later in life
Of course, everybody knows—thanks in part to Marisa Tomei’s character in the movie “My Uncle Vinny”—that a woman’s biological time-clock for having a baby can get REALLY LOUD as she ages (cue stomping her feet on the porch). And even though that same study cited above found that women, too, were waiting on average to have kids, there’s a definite window for fertility that begins to close as she enters her 30s.
Although men don’t hit menopause like women, their fertility begins to lessen as they get older. “It’s on a hockey-stick-shaped curve [of infertility risks], just as it is with women, but with men the stick is a lot longer. The risks can start at 40 or maybe even 50 or 60 and then [risks] rapidly rise after 60,” Dr. Paul Turek, a men’s health and fertility urologist, tells NBC News.
While men continue to make sperm from puberty until death, they start to become a lot less viable after 50, according to Dr. Brian A. Levine, the founding partner and practice director of CCRM New York. He tells NBC News, “In terms of the age-old question, how old is too old? We don’t know the answer to that. There are multiple factors, and it takes a lot to make a healthy child and the outcome is dependent on age of the mother, the father, and the uterine environment.”
If you are considering having a baby and want to assess your level of fertility, SpermCheck is an at-home test that lets you measure your sperm count quickly and easily without the need for an embarrassing trip to the doctor’s office.
The Pros and Cons of Waiting to Become a Dad
Writer Corey Levitan waited until he was 46 to have a child and says even though he’s got more aches and pains than most of his fellow dads on the playground and likes to squeeze in a nap (or two) most days, he’s glad he waited so long to have his daughter.
While most of his pals are becoming empty-nesters and looking to party like rock-stars as 50-somethings, he got to sow all his wild oats when he was young enough to handle them (and their consequences). But he also thinks his maturity brings less selfishness to his parenting and he’s less likely to “sweat the small stuff.”
Levitan also points out that having an older dad might be a benefit to his daughter, too. “Some research suggests that the children of older dads are likely to have higher IQs and grades.”
Waiting until after 40 to become a dad comes with risks—physically and emotionally—but like a perfectly-aged wine or a partner you want to spend the rest of your life with, becoming a dad is worth waiting for.