Traditionally, the question of a man’s age has largely been absent from discussions of parenthood. The reason is because the contribution of male age to human reproduction is not well understood. According to Donald Peters, “men’s interest in being a father is nowhere near a high priority as women’s to be a mother. Men do it for many other reasons other than being a father.” While public health messages have tended to focus on the problems associated with ageing mothers, a high-profile scientific study in the journal nature genetics adds the father’s age to talks of fertility, pregnancy complications, and child-birth defects, revealing that biological clocks were also ticking for men.
The fertility coalition survey reveals that a man’s fertility starts declining between 40 and 50 years and that his age influenced the quantity, speed and quality of sperm including the DNA and male testosterone hormone. Miscarriage for his partner was 6 times more likely to happen than when he is younger. Both natural and assisted (artificial) conceptions were more difficult if the man is above 40 years. This means that the sperm depreciate with age, just like other parts of our body.
Older fathers are more likely than younger fathers to produce offspring with childhood birth defects such as congenital heart defects, prostate cancer, breast cancer, dwarfism, Apert syndrome (a disorder characterized by malformations of the skull, face, hands and feet). Marfan syndrome (a disorder of the connective tissue), and neuro-development disorders like epilepsy, down-syndrome (mongolism), autism, schizophrenia and bi-polarity. All this relates to the child’s low intelligence, poor health backgrounds, reduced ability to think, reason, memorize, concentrate, socialize, explore, and perform motoring skills.
The reason is that older men were more likely to produce sperm containing an increased number of mutations in his cells which divide more rapidly with age. These DNA errors are passed on to offspring and can cause genetic abnormalities. Unlike women, men may remain fertile and continue producing sperm at old age, but the sperm can contain dangerous mutations and DNA appears abnormal. The sperms were five times more likely to be misshapen (deformed) leading to error in genetic coding. This increases the risk of problems in the child and it is possible that these mistakes will carry on into the next generation.
These surprising results are a clear warning to the growing number of men in the western world who are delaying parenthood until their 40s or even older! Men should also not leave parenthood too late if they want to be sure of having children. Both the eggs and the sperm have their biological clock. This is one reason some women are choosing to freeze their eggs in their early 30s, with the hope that one day they will become mothers. Now, doctors say should look at this study and consider their options as well.
“Nobody likes to think that they are aging, certainly not men. Men live in denial. To them, everything will always be the same” (Prof. C. Beeds of the Columbia University). If men on the other hand start worrying about their biological clocks even 10% as much as women do, researchers and scientists seemed to suggest that it would cause a remarkable social shift in the society, which implies that men will start feeling anxious about looking attractive, becoming good cooks and so on. These are worries that are said to weigh more heavily on women.
(Copyright from the “Daizy Magazine,” Issue 00, pages 16 – 18).
David Francis E.Follow
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