Do men really have a biological clock?

We’ve all seen the cartoons of a literal ticking clock hovering around the heads of women in their late 20s and 30s – the tired old trope of the biological clock that only seems to affect the female gender

Men like Hugh Hefner and Robert De Niro fathered kids into their golden years, and Charlie Chaplin was a staggering 73 years old when he had his final child. After all, men don’t have to worry about their own fertility’s expiration date, do they?

The answer is a slight bit more complex than it might seem at first glance. While it is true that male fertility does typically decline at a later age than for women, this is not always the case. Some men should be paying more attention to that ticking clock than they might think.

Does male fertility decline with age?

Just like all other aspects of the body, male fertility does indeed decrease with age. While they may not experience a transition equivalent to menopause, the quality, motility, and quantity of sperm is lowered in older men. Now, that doesn’t mean that a Charlie Chaplin won’t come along now and then and father a healthy child well into his senior years, but men should not count on this.

Data shows that after the age of 40 years conception is 30 percent less likely compared to men under 30 yrs old due to significant changes in semen parameters.  In fact, a man’s amount of semen (the fluid that contains the sperm cells) and the motility of the sperm start (it’s ability to move) starts to decrease at the age of 20.

Does an older father cause birth defects?

While potential birth defects associated with an advanced maternal age have been wildly overstated by the press, there is no denying that the potential for certain problems increases along with the age of the mother. But does the father’s age also matter to the mental and physical health of the child? The answer seems to point to yes.

Studies show that a woman with a partner older than 45 is more likely to suffer a miscarriage than a woman whose partner is younger than 45. The reason for this is likely due to sperm that is damaged at a genetic level owing to advanced paternal age.

Babies born to older parents have a slightly higher risk of genetic abnormalities and birth defects. Fathers who are older than the age of 40 are also marginally more likely to have children with mental health problems and autism spectrum disorder.

The verdict?

While many men will be able to father healthy and happy babies into their 40s and older, men certainly need to pay attention to their fertility. Just as in women, men’s fertility does indeed decrease as they age.

IVF babble asked Carole Gilling Smith, of the Agora Fertility Clinic, her opinion on the biological clock phenomenon.

She said: “At the Agora we encourage both partners to have a healthy lifestyle before they start treatment.

“For men in particular, too much exercise, tight clothing (like lycra), smoking and recreational drugs can really affect fertility and reduce the chances of a pregnancy.

“We recommend three months of healthy eating, moderate exercise and low stress to ensure male sperm has the chance to rebuild and maximise options of a successful pregnancy. Obesity has been linked to poor sperm quality and Personal training is often a good way to kick start a healthy lifestyle and ensures you have the support to keep on track.

“Some of our patients have found going to Revolution Personal Training for their 12-week programme produce great results.”

To learn more about the fantastic Agora Clinic click here

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