Older parenthood is on the rise in America. Men and women alike are spending more time pursuing their careers, and couples are getting married later and waiting longer to have children. While the complications for older mothers are well documented and widely known, risks associated with older fathers are much less well understood.
While women’s biological clocks move toward menopause, men don’t have the same clearly delineated fertility window. Women have a limited number of eggs for life, whereas men produce millions of new sperm every day. This biological truth has resulted in some widespread misconceptions, and male fertility is often conflated with masculinity.
Infertility is actually just as common in men as it is in women, and age is a factor for both. As more and more couples are having children later in life, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks involved.
How Does Aging Affect Male Fertility?
Advanced age can impact nearly every aspect of male fertility, from the likelihood of successful fertilization to the time it takes to conceive to the health of the newborn baby.
To start with, smoking, obesity, and excessive alcohol intake all affect fertility for both men and women, and they only compound the effects of age. Furthermore, the older men get, the more likely they are to suffer from medical conditions, such as erectile dysfunction and cancer, that make conception more difficult.
Older age on its own can decrease the likelihood of conception as well. Men continue to produce new sperm each day, but the quality of the sperm can decline. Once men turn 40, testosterone levels begin to drop, and sperm motility decreases, which refers to the ability of the sperm to “swim” toward an egg. After age 40, sperm also have a higher chance of being abnormally shaped, which means they are less likely to fertilize an egg.
When sperm loses motility or are abnormally shaped, conception can take longer than expected. Studies have shown that sperm from men over the age of 45 can take as much as five times longer to produce a pregnancy than sperm from their younger counterparts. This delay, in turn, can compound a woman’s age-related fertility issues.
Older fatherhood can create complications after conception as well. A new study has found that babies born to older fathers are at increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and other serious health problems. Studies have also suggested that pregnancies with older fathers have an increased risk of miscarriage and other potential problems for the mother, such as gestational diabetes.
Taking these risks into account doesn’t need to mean drastic life changes, however. While new data continues to advance our understanding of male fertility, it should also be noted that the effects of male aging are still modest compared to those of women. It’s also important to remember that there can be many different factors at play in infertility, and it’s often not as simple as tracing it to one partner’s age or another’s medical history.
Learn More About Male Fertility
To learn more about the risk factors for male fertility or to discuss your treatment options, contact the team at Fertility Solutions today.