Tick tock tick tock. As soon we women reach the age of 30, we hear the biological ticking away as we try to hold on to our fertility just for another while. But what about men? Don’t they have a biological clock to listen to?
I mean, look at the following oldies celebrity dads who fathered kids beyond their 60th birthday:
- David Letterman, at age 61
- Donald Trump, 62
- Sylvester Stallone, 62
- Rod Stewart, 63
- Michael Douglas, 64
- Mick Jagger, 65
- Hugh Hefner, 65
- Paul McCartney, 66
- Clint Eastwood 66.
- Sir Michael John Gambon, 68
- Woody Allen, 73
- Charlie Chaplin, 73
- Larry King, 75
- Anthony Quinn, 81
Surely for men, age doesn’t matter for fertility.
However, there is increasing evidence that this is not the case, and that men too, should listen to the ticking clock starting at midlife. Researchers report that the sperm quality of men decreases with age, and that fertility starts to wane when they reach the 30s, and plummets when they reach their 40s. During the time, the overall chance of fathering a child drastically decreases. And if a pregnancy is ever achieved, the likelihood of miscarriage is increased. In addition, the resulting offspring would have a higher likelihood to suffer from genetically related disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, autism and low IQ. This is according to a study by researchers at the Eylau Centre for Assisted Reproduction in Paris, France who looked at more than 1,200 couples.
So what’s reason behind the male biological clock?
Researchers think it is due to some kind of “sperm decay” which is characterized by DNA damage and abnormalities. Men start producing sperms at puberty at a rate of 100 million new sperms per day. During the process, DNA is copied and duplication from one sperm to another. During the countless sperm-copying processes, mistakes occur and DNA mutations happen. These errors accumulate with age, leading to decreasing sperm quality.
According to fertility specialist Dr. Carl Herbert
“These subtle copying defects cause a long list of diseases in the children of older fathers. Lesch Nyhan syndrome, polycystic kidney disease and hemophilia A are among the most well known. For fathers over age 40, the risk of having a child with a disease-causing mutation is similar to the risk the mother has for a child with Down syndrome.”
Aside from age, other health factors, including body weight and diabetes, can also adversely affect sperm quality.
According to Dr. Harry Fisch, urologist at Columbia University, and author of the book The Male Biological Clock
“…couples are waiting longer to have children, and advances in reproductive technology are allowing older men and women to consider having children. The lack of appreciation among both medical professionals and the lay public for the reality of a male biological clock makes these trends worrisome.”
He further advises older dads to “have a thorough history and physical examination focused on their sexual and reproductive capacity. Such examination should entail disclosure of any sexual dysfunction and the use of medications, drugs, or lifestyle factors that might impair fertility or sexual response.”