We have long known that age matters – a lot – for women who are trying to conceive. Recent research is now bringing to light the issues of a man’s age when he is working with his female partner to have a baby. It turns out, men have biological clocks ticking too – decreasing their fertility as they age.
If we are listening, recent studies tell us of the ticking of a man’s biological clock. But the stories of celebrities seem to tell a different story. We’ve all heard of Hollywood legends who father children well into their 60’s, 70’s, or even 80’s, right? These splashy stories are louder and more sensational than science. They make it challenging to hear those tick-tocks. But make no mistake: the clocks are ticking. A man’s age does indeed impact his fertility.
A Man’s Age Impacts IVF Outcomes
In one of the studies, more than 7,700 couples went through more than 19,000 rounds of IVF treatment. For the couples in treatment, here’s how the numbers stacked up:
- Younger women with a male partner (age 30-35) resulted in a 73% chance of a live birth outcome
- Younger women with a male partner (aged 40-42) dropped to a 46% chance of having a baby born
Interestingly, older women partnering with younger men to start a family had significant outcomes to note as well:
- Women ages 35-40 doing IVF cycles with men aged 30-35 had a 54% chance of live birth
- Women ages 35-40, with a man under 30 years old saw a jump to 70% chance of a baby born
Not at all surprising was that women in the older age group of 40-42 years experienced the lowest live birth rates across this particular 14-year study. In those instances, the age of the male partner had no impact on the outcomes.
A Man’s Age Impacts Pregnancy
Quite a few studies have shown that the aging process impacts the quality (or “health” if you will) of a man’s sperm. Deterioration in the quality of sperm is linked to difficulty in achieving pregnancy. But the problematic news connected to that is aging sperm also increases the risk of miscarriage, particularly when the father is over the age of 40 years.
A Man’s Age Impacts The Baby
While the connections may be looser and carry other factors related to maternal age and family history, there are a few earlier studies that speak to the health of the baby. These studies indicate links between older dads (and therefore older sperm) whose aging sperm may directly impact the development and birth of a baby:
- increased risk of some congenital disabilities, like Down syndrome and limb differences
- potential for autism, though admittedly that is also linked to maternal age
- damages to the DNA structure
What’s a Couple To Do?
If you are trying to figure out when it’s the right time to try to conceive, it’s essential to know the facts. The research for women is well-documented: fertility rates decline beginning around age 35. When you hear news about celebrity dads welcoming new babies at 67 years old, it’s startling to read the science. But the science doesn’t lie: male fertility is impacted as early as 40 years old. Ready or not, waiting to start a family in your late 30’s or early 40’s will put you in a race against both biological clocks.
We recognize that this can be pretty hard to hear, especially if one of you is not quite ready to leap into parenthood. You aren’t alone. As one researcher noted, it’s common for women to delay getting pregnant because their male partners are slower to warm up to the idea of starting a family.
Now that you know how a man’s age impacts his fertility health, maybe you will hear both clocks ticking a little more clearly.
Tell us in the comments: Will you use these studies to start a conversation with your partner about age and fertility?
Image Credit: Maria Mellor; Mitch Barrie