When people discuss the old "biological clock" they're almost always referring to women. We know that a woman's biology will determine the age when they can no longer conceive children, and while it's different for every woman, there seems to be an almost obsession that women need to focus on their biological clock if they want to have kids. Women are freezing their eggs to ensure they will be able to conceive when the time is right, but what about men? According to a new study, it's not just women who have a biological clock, but men too, and if men want to ensure they can have children in their future, they may want to take the appropriate steps for that to happen.
The study out of Rutgers University looked at more than 40 years of research on parental age and fertility and concluded that men who want to have children should consider banking their sperm by the time they're 35 years old.
"While it is widely accepted that physiological changes that occur in women after 35 can affect conception, pregnancy and the health of the child, most men do not realize their advanced age can have a similar impact," said study author Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Women aren't the only ones with a “biological clock.” Read why @RWJMS' Gloria Bachmann says that men who delay fatherhood should consult their doctor and consider banking sperm before age 35. #RutgersResearchhttps://t.co/mwzDeW4n3r— Rutgers University (@RutgersU) May 14, 2019
Unlike women, who are deemed to have a "geriatric pregnancy" if they conceive over the age of 35, there are no such markers for advanced paternal age. The study did note that advanced paternal age does range from 35-45 for men as well and pointed out that men over 45 are having 10% more babies now than those in that age range have in the last 40 years, thanks in part to advanced fertility technology.
The study found that men over the age of 45 can also experience a decline in their fertility and put their partner at risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, premature birth, and preeclampsia. Babies born to older fathers were also found to have a variety of complications such "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."
“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,” Bachmann says. “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.”
When talking about the "biological clock" we are almost always focused on the woman, which is something that Bachmann thinks needs to change. "While women tend to be more aware and educated than men about their reproductive health, most men do not consult with physicians unless they have a medical or fertility issue," Bachmann said. She thinks that doctors need to be having fertility discussions with men as well as women and advising them if they haven't started their family by the time they turn 35, they may want to freeze their sperm to limit complications in the future.