Women are not the only ones that are victims of their biological clock. The sperm quality degrades with age, and becoming a father becomes harder with time. Furthermore, a late fatherhood also exposes the child to more health issues.
Being born with a limited quantity of ovules, women notice a freeze of their fertility at the menopause age. After this age, the risk of miscarriage and genetic abnormality such as trisomy 21. Besides that, men continuously produce sperm whatever their age is. But that doesn’t prevent their fertility from decreasing. Nowadays, proofs of the existence of a biological clock for men are being revealed by research.
Father’s age and risks of problems on birth
The older the father is, the harder it will be for the mother to become pregnant, whatever her age is. Chances for a man to get a baby within 6 months decrease by about 2% every year starting from 24 years old. Furthermore, a father being at least 5 years older than the mother decreases chances to have a baby, compared to couples having the same age or a younger father. Fifteen years ago, Professor Chris Ford was already affirming that men’s fertility decreases with time, not as abruptly as for women reaching the menopause, but rather slowly and in a stable manner in time.
Furthermore, the father’s age seems to be linked to miscarriage. A study group from Columbia University has tracked about 100 000 births and managed to find a relation between the father’s age and miscarriages or premature births. Women having a partner older than 35 years old have three times more chances of a miscarriage than with a 25 years old partner, no matter the mother’s age, health or other risks factors.
In addition to having difficulties to procreate, older men seem to have more risks of transmitting genetic troubles to their children, be it autism, schizophrenia or dwarfism. These same researches also seem to extend to linking the intellectual quotient to the parents’ age.
Less sperm with increasing age
Like all the other organs, the male reproductive system is affected and degraded by time. Even though men do not undergo a sudden loss of hormones, they suffer from a slow decrease of testosterone, of prasterone… These changes lead to a decrease of fertility and sometimes can become pathological.
A French study on about 2000 men revealed that even for couples using in vitro fertilization, the father’s age (preferably over 40) can be a miscarriage reason. However, whatever the man’s age is, he produces millions of sperm everyday, so the problem must be about the sperm quality and not quantity.
In other words, the “sperm production machine” is still working, but doing more and more errors. A confirmation to this hypothesis has been brought by studies, showing that sperm concentration by volume, and their mobility are decreasing with sperm shape being modified with age. With the shape changing, sperm ADN also changes for older fathers in a way that transmitting genetic mutation chances increase with time.
Pollution and male fertility troubles
On top of aging, environmental factors can be reasons for this lack of male productivity. Smoking, alcohol, radiations, industrial and chemical pollution, phytosanitary products (pesticides), cosmetics, cleansing products, paints… As years go by, exposure to these products increase and cumulate, having a real effect on the reproductive organs. Several scientific studies have managed to link fertility with tobacco consumption, cannabis or overweight…
This theory is reinforced by a continuous male fertility decrease over time. Sperm quantity diminished from about 100 million per milliliter in the 50s to about 50 million today!
Boosting male fertility
Some advice to help men keep their fertility:
– Eating food with a high quantity of zinc and folic acid, or B9 vitamin. You can even take medicine such as pills to improve fertility;
– Drugs, such as cannabis or steroïds, shall be completely avoided as they do reduce the amount of sperm.
– Some medicine used to treat arterial hypertension, ulcers and depressions have influence on male fertility. If you are under such treatments and consider getting a child, tell your doctor about it;
– Some jobs (e.g. driving a truck, foundry) or activities (jacuzzis, laptop on the thighs) implying a long-time exposure to heat can directly harm your sperm production and quality. If it’s too difficult to get another job, try to reduce exposure to heat as much as possible or isolate your private parts in a way to avoid heat.
– Some chemical products, heavy metals such as lead or cadmium, and radiations may endanger your reproduction abilities. Avoid them!
And most important, if you plan on keeping all chances to become a father someday, stop smoking, drink moderately, exercise on a regular basis and eat healthy food.