When it comes to setting off on the exciting journey that is parenthood later in life – after 35 or so – most people think that the woman’s age is the real concern and how many candles happened to be on the prospective Dad to be’s last birthday cake does not really matter. Increasingly though, medical research is finding that that is not quite the case.
The Big Myth – Men and Never Ending Fertility
Most guys think that they can age and very little will change. A few more lines maybe and a bit of a pot belly but very few men worry about getting older in quite the same way that women do. That is often true when it comes to fertility too. After all if Rod Stewart can father not just one but two babies after his 60th birthday and lots of other men seem to do the same then why should it be any different for them?
How The “Biological Clocks” of Men and Women Differ
Women are born with the egg supply that they will need for their life already in place. Many of them are lost at puberty, an age where pregnancy isn’t going to be an issue for years yet and then more of them die off every year. As the eggs age many of them also develop abnormalities.
This is not true of sperm. Men produce new sperm all the time so sperm aging is never an issue. There may be a slight decline in fertility over the years but nothing as significant as the decline in women so therefore the fact that you often see older guys becoming fathers should not be too much of a surprise.
How The “Biological Clocks” of Men and Women are the Same
As a woman gets older her body produces less of the female hormone estrogen. Her fertility declines and as her remaining eggs age the chance that a fertilized egg has abnormalities, leading to birth defects increases as well.
As a man ages his body produces less testosterone, the male hormone.There is a slight decrease in fertility but the dip in testosterone also means that they produce more abnormal sperm. Sperm with abnormalities can result in birth defects. see the similarities now?
The simple fact is that just because an older guy can still produce lots of sperm that does not mean that it is all high quality stuff. As men age their sperm experiences a decline in three important areas – volume, motility (aka speed) and quality (more abnormally shaped sperm)
Older Men and The Sperm Quality Problem
A study that was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility several years ago gained an awful lot of attention because it shed a lot of light onto just how serious the decline in sperm in older men can be and served as a bit of a wake up call for those who had believed that strong male fertility was everlasting.
What the study found was that between the ages of 30 and 50 the average man’s sperm declines by about 30% in volume, swims 37% slower than a younger man’s sperm does and is five times more likely to be misshapen.
Misshapen Sperm and Fertility
Normal sperm are oval and have long tails that help them swim more efficiently. Abnormal sperm may be too large or too small, have short or kinky tails or “heads” that are not the perfect ovals that they are supposed to be.
Apart from not being able to swim very well these abnormal sperm are also often the result of faulty genetic material which can cause birth defects.
Usually a problem with sperm morphology (the scientific term for misshapen sperm) is not discovered for sure until a man has encountered difficulties fathering a child and goes for fertility tests. Yet it seems safe to assume, based on the research, that it is likely to be a factor all older men have to consider when it comes to fertility.
There are no medicines that can help correct sperm morphology problems but there are some things that also seem to have an adverse effect on sperm shape that a guy over 30 can avoid to help decrease the problem overall. Things known to damage sperm shape include heavy drinking and exposing the testicles to a lot of intense heat (saunas, very hot showers, continually working with a computer on their lap) as well as certain medication that are prescribed to treat IBS, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Sperm Volume, Sperm Speed and Fertility
The fact that sperm volume and sperm speed decline with age are things that really cannot be corrected or even really improved. There is no super workout to build sperm strength. Staying at a healthy weight does seem to be able to help speed a little but the fact that this may become an issue in later life is something that many men have to come to terms with a bear in mind if they and their partner experience difficulties conceiving.
All of those older fathers that you see are living proof that men can father children at any age and so therefore becoming a Dad after 35 – and even older – is certainly very possible. An age related disorder like erectile dysfunction can be treated with one of those little blue pills these days and a healthy diet and plenty of exercise can help a man’s overall health a great deal, something that can only also be good for the quality of their sperm and their chance of becoming an older Dad.