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The Male Biological Clock: Men Who Start Families Late May Put Their Partners and Children At Risk

Women aren't the only ones whose bodies change as they get older, obviously. Men do too but the notion that the age at which men start families does not affect their children or partners is quite inaccurate. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Maturitas, there could be potential side effects when men have children later in life.

Though it is true that men don't necessarily lose their capability of producing children at an advanced age, this however poses risks such as complications during pregnancy as well as developmental issues for the children.

The study found that men 45 and older can experience decreased fertility and put their partners at risk for increased pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth. Infants born to older fathers were found to be at higher risk of premature birth, late still birth, low Apgar scores, low birth weight, higher incidence of newborn seizures and birth defects such as congenital heart disease and cleft palate. As they matured, these children were found to have an increased likelihood of childhood cancers, psychiatric and cognitive disorders, and autism.
Bachmann attributes most of these outcomes to a natural decline in testosterone that occurs with aging, as well as sperm degradation and poorer semen quality, but she said that some correlations need more research. "In addition to advancing paternal age being associated with an increased risk of male infertility, there appears to be other adverse changes that may occur to the sperm with aging. For example, just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," she said.

It may not be a similar comparison, think of this as the male counterpart for postmenopausal pregnancy in that the effects that occur in that situation would be just as risky. 

Though further research needs to be done on why this is happening, this should give awareness to men who want to have children in the future. They need to think carefully about when they would start out because if they delay it too much, it might be too late.


(Image credit: Natalya Zaritskaya/Unsplash)

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