Men are also at the optimal age to become fathers

By MD, PhD, MSc (gynecologist) and (embryologist).
Last Update: 06/04/2021

Increasingly, people are becoming more aware of the negative effect that age has on a woman's fertility. However, although this effect is better known, the age at which women have their first child is being delayed.

However, although it goes much more unnoticed, this delay in motherhood is associated with an increase in the age at which one becomes a father. For this reason, some men may have wondered whether age also has a negative effect on male fertility and may ask themselves: what is the best age to become a father?

Like women, men also have an optimal age for having children. Both have a biological clock, although time passes differently.

What is the optimal age to become a parent?

First of all, the best time to be a parent is when you feel ready to face parenthood. Of course, the age of the male has weight in this decision, but the biological moment is only one of the factors to take into account before looking for a pregnancy. Parenthood is a great challenge, for both men and women, and you have to be prepared in many ways to face it.

In the case of men, the ideal biological age to have a family is before the age of 40. This does not mean that men over 40 cannot be fathers. At this age there is also no marked decrease in male fertility as there is in the case of women. In fact, there are men of advanced age who have managed to become fathers because sperm production is still going on.

However, older paternal age has been associated with poorer sperm quality, longer time to pregnancy and greater risks to the baby. In addition, there are other drawbacks to being an aging parent that we'll mention later.

Delayed parenthood

It is more common to hear about the current delay in childbearing, because of the effect this postponement has on a woman's fertility. However, it is not only the woman who decides when it is time to look for a child. The decision must be a joint one and it is becoming more and more common for couples to make the most of their time together without having to worry about everything that comes with having children. Therefore, the male will also be older at the time when the couple seeks gestation.

Advantages of being an aging parent

The main advantage of delaying parenthood is that the man, like his partner, has been able to gain greater stability. This stability refers to various aspects of life such as the economic or sentimental, important when deciding to become a parent. In addition, the boy will be more mature, which is likely to be reflected in his child's upbringing.

On the other hand, as we have mentioned, the father-to-be will have spent more time with his partner. This will reduce the feeling that they have had to give up a lot to be parents.

Disadvantages of Being an Aging Parent

One of the first inconveniences that come to mind when we talk about being a parent with advanced age is the difficulty that an older person may have to keep up with a young child, the night wakings.

Later, when the child reaches adolescence, the father will be even older. This can make the relationship between the two complicated because of the generation gap. In addition, there may be concern that the parent is going to miss out on part of their child's future.

On the other hand, there are other types of disadvantages related to a possible lower frequency of sexual relations, or with complications to carry them out due to age.

Seminal quality may also get worse as a man ages. Above all, age can affect semen volume, sperm motility and sperm DNA integrity.

However, another major drawback is the relationship that has been shown to exist between advanced paternal age and an increased risk of certain diseases in offspring. These include autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, and even certain types of cancer.

In addition, there is a possible increased risk of miscarriage when the father is older, as well as other obstetric complications such as preeclampsia, low birth weight, or preterm delivery.

Andropause

Although it should not be compared to female menopause, as they are very different, the male may suffer from testosterone deficiency syndrome in the aging male, better known as andropause. This syndrome is due to the fact that the production of testosterone decreases gradually with the age of the male.

Andropause does not appear in all men and is diagnosed after a determination of serum testosterone (which must be decreased) associated with certain symptoms such as:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Decreased libido.
  • Symptoms of implantation.
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability.
  • Loss of muscle mass and increase in visceral fat.

Therefore, this syndrome can affect the quality of life of the male and the chances of achieving a pregnancy, especially if sexual relations are affected.

What are the alternatives?

Assisted reproduction has allowed both men and women of advanced age who had infertility problems (probably already due to age) to become parents. However, advanced paternal age could affect the outcome fertility treatments.

On the other hand, due to the possibility that genetic alterations are increased with age, genetic counseling is recommended for older couples. In this way, the couple will be informed and will be able to know the possible risks for their offspring. In addition, the preimplantation genetic test (PGT) is a good option to avoid transferring embryos with these alterations to the uterus.

To perform a PGD, one should undergo IVF as the main treatment. If you are looking for a clinic to get started, we recommend that you generate your individual Fertility Report now. It is a useful, simple tool that, in just 3 steps, will give you a list of the clinics that have passed our rigorous selection process. You will receive an email in your inbox with a report that contains tips and recommendations to get started.

FAQs from users

By Blanca Paraíso MD, PhD, MSc (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.

When is paternal age considered to be advanced paternal age?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez (embryologist).

There is no established consensus on what age is considered advanced paternal age. However, advanced paternal age is usually considered to be when the father-to-be is 40 years of age or older at the time of seeking pregnancy.

What are the advantages of assisted reproduction for older men?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez (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.

Suggested for you

if you are interested in knowing more about preimplantational genetic studies to embryos, you can read the following article: What Is PGD or Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis?

Our editors have made great efforts to create this content for you. By sharing this post, you are helping us to keep ourselves motivated to work even harder.

References

Brandt JS, Cruz Ithier MA, Rosen T, Ashkinadze E. Advanced paternal age, infertility, and reproductive risks: A review of the literature. Prenat Diagn. 2019 Jan;39(2):81-87.

Eskenazi B, Wyrobek AJ, Sloter E, Kidd SA, Moore L, Young S, Moore D. The association of age and semen quality in healthy men. Hum Reprod. 2003 Feb;18(2):447-54.

Goisis A, Remes H, Barclay K, Martikainen P, Myrskylä M. Paternal age and the risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery: a Finnish register-based study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2018 Dec;72(12):1104-1109.

Halvaei I, Litzky J, Esfandiari N. Advanced paternal age: effects on sperm parameters, assisted reproduction outcomes and offspring health. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2020 Nov 13;18(1):110.

Jennings MO, Owen RC, Keefe D, Kim ED. Management and counseling of the male with advanced paternal age. Fertil Steril. 2017 Feb;107(2):324-328.

Liu KE, Case A. No. 346-Advanced Reproductive Age and Fertility. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2017 Aug;39(8):685-695.

Nybo Andersen AM, Urhoj SK. Is advanced paternal age a health risk for the offspring? Fertil Steril. 2017 Feb;107(2):312-318.

Phillips N, Taylor L, Bachmann G. Maternal, infant and childhood risks associated with advanced paternal age: The need for comprehensive counseling for men. Maturitas. 2019 Jul;125:81-84.

Sharma R, Agarwal A, Rohra VK, Assidi M, Abu-Elmagd M, Turki RF. Effects of increased paternal age on sperm quality, reproductive outcome and associated epigenetic risks to offspring. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2015 Apr 19;13:35.

Zhu JL, Madsen KM, Vestergaard M, Basso O, Olsen J. Paternal age and preterm birth. Epidemiology. 2005 Mar;16(2):259-62.

FAQs from users: 'Up to what age is parenthood recommended?', 'When is paternal age considered to be advanced paternal age?' and 'What are the advantages of assisted reproduction for older men?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Blanca Paraíso
Blanca Paraíso
MD, PhD, MSc
Gynecologist
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine and Ph.D from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). Postgraduate Course in Statistics of Health Sciences. Doctor specialized in Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Assisted Procreation. More information about Blanca Paraíso
License: 454505579
 Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
Embryologist
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

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