How does a man’s age influence fertility and pregnancy?

By (gynecologist), (embryologist) and (psychologist).
Last Update: 01/14/2022

The negative effect of age on female fertility is generally known. In women, the quantity and quality of eggs decrease with the passage of time, which hinders the possibility of achieving pregnancy. However, the effect of age on male fertility and whether it has an impact on assisted reproductive outcomes is more unknown.

Nevertheless, it is a very important issue, as today's lifestyle may be associated with an increase in the age at which to become a parent.

Effects on semen quality

Sperm quality may deteriorate with age. There seems to be a clearer affectation in seminal volume and sperm motility in older men. Similarly, there may also be an increase in the percentage of sperm with fragmented DNA in older males.

However, not all studies have found the same results regarding the affectation of seminal parameters with male age.

On the other hand, there seems to be a negative effect with male age on some aneuploidies (alterations in the number of chromosomes) in spermatozoa. In addition, other types of genetic alterations also appear to be increased in the sperm of older males. This is the case of duplications, deletions, and certain translocations.

In addition, the accumulation of mutations and epigenetic changes (changes in gene function) with age could lead to an increased risk of alterations in offspring. Thus, advanced paternal age has been associated with certain psychiatric and neurological syndromes and disorders.

Results in ART

It is common to study the effect of paternal age on the results of assisted reproductive techniques (ART) in oocyte donation cycles. This strategy allows the effect of maternal age to be separated, since the egg donors are young women.

Assisted procreation, as any other medical treatment, requires that you rely on the professionalism of the doctors and staff of the clinic you choose. Obviously, each clinic is different. Get now your Fertility Report, which will select several clinics for you out of the pool of clinics that meet our strict quality criteria. Moreover, it will offer you a comparison between the fees and conditions each clinic offers in order for you to make a well informed choice.

Despite this, unfortunately, there is no clear conclusion on the effect of paternal age on ART outcomes. There may be a decrease in the fertilization rate when the male is around 45-50 years old. Similarly, a decrease in blastocyst formation rate and pregnancy rate is possible if the male is older.

In contrast, the rate of miscarriage and embryonic aneuploidy may be increased in older men. This could make a preimplantation genetic study (PGT) of the embryos advisable, especially in men over 50 years of age who undergo ART. In this way, the transfer of embryos with certain genetic alterations to your partner would be avoided.

On the other hand, there is a paucity of studies that perform long-term follow-up of the offspring of aged parents after ART.

Paternity delay

What does seem to be clear is that paternal age has a smaller effect than maternal age on reproductive outcomes. Despite this, men should not delay fatherhood.

Males do not undergo "menopause" and continue to produce sperm at an advanced age. However, there is a decline in male fertility with age to conceive naturally. In addition, the effects of paternal age on ART outcomes are unclear.

Last, but even more important, is the possible adverse effect that advanced paternal age may have on the offspring as we have seen above.

FAQs from users

Is there an age limit for male fertility treatments?

By Jessica García Cataño M.D., M.Sc. (gynecologist).

There is no age limit for men when undergoing fertility treatment. Men, unlike women, do not have an age where fertility is drastically terminated.

Semen parameters such as concentration, motility, morphology or volume gradually decrease over time. Other semen parameters such as DNA fragmentation tend to increase as the years go by.

In general, all these semen changes and age-related diseases affect fertility and the results of reproductive treatments. However, in principle, there is no age limit where fertility treatments are inadvisable for males.

By Blanca Paraíso M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc. (gynecologist).

The impact of paternal age on reproductive and neonatal outcomes has always been underestimated, as the focus has been on maternal age, which is much more determinant. However, paternal age has also been negatively related to fertility.

Firstly, age decreases the chances of achieving pregnancy naturally, as the number of spermatozoa decreases after the age of 40, and in addition, the sperm will have a greater fragmentation of their DNA. It is true, however, that these factors will not affect pregnancy rates using techniques such as in vitro fertilisation.

There are also studies that have shown an increased risk of premature births or low birth weight in children born to fathers aged 35 or older, although these findings are not entirely clear. Another aspect is the relationship between paternal age, especially after the age of 50, with a slight increase in the risk of autism and schizophrenia.

Therefore, it could be said that in general the ideal age to be a father would be below 40. From this point onwards, the chances of conceiving naturally start to decrease and there will be an increase, albeit minimal, in the genetic risks for the offspring. However, this does not mean that parenthood is discouraged above this age. Assisted reproduction techniques can compensate for this decrease in fertility and the risks involved will be very low.

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

No. Law 14/2006 on ART does not establish an age limit for the application of assisted reproductive techniques in men, as long as the woman is of legal age.

However, in the case of women, there seems to be a widely accepted consensus that assisted reproductive treatments should not be performed on women over 50 years of age. However, there does not seem to be such an agreement in the male case.

What are the advantages of assisted reproduction for older men?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

One advantage of assisted reproduction when the age of the male partner is advanced is that, with techniques such as ICSI, certain problems in sperm quality that age may have caused can be overcome.

On the other hand, assisted reproduction also offers the possibility of carrying out a pre-implantation genetic test on embryos (especially if the couple is of advanced maternal age). In this way, embryos with genetic alterations would not be transferred.

If you want to learn more, you can visit the following link: Sperm quality: how it is measured and what to do to improve it.

If, on the other hand, you are interested in the best age to become a mother, we recommend you read this article: What is the best biological age to become a mother?

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FAQs from users: 'Is there an age limit for male fertility treatments?', 'Up to what age is parenthood recommended?', 'Is there a legal age limit to become a parent through assisted reproduction in Spain?' and 'What are the advantages of assisted reproduction for older men?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Jessica García Cataño
Jessica García Cataño
M.D., M.Sc.
Degree in Medicine from the University of Guadalajara in Mexico, specializing in Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Fray Antonio Alcalde Civil Hospital. After completing a Master's in Human Reproduction at the Complutense University of Madrid, she became part of the Clinica Ginefiv Madrid gynecology team. More information about Jessica García Cataño
 Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduate in Health Biology from the University of Alcalá and specialized in Clinical Genetics from the same university. Master in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Valencia in collaboration with IVI clinics. More information about Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
License: 3435-CV
Adapted into english by:
 Cristina  Algarra Goosman
Cristina Algarra Goosman
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Psychology by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Clinical Psychology by the European University Center and specific training in Infertility: Legal, Medical and Psychosocial Aspects by University of Valencia (UV) and ADEIT.
More information about Cristina Algarra Goosman
Member number: CV16874

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