“Sometimes it’s the family you’re born into and sometimes it’s the one you make for yourself.” – Sex and the City
Men have long had the luxury of living life large – but new research could change all that. Welcome to our world, guys. As women, the idea of an expiration date has been drilled into our heads since puberty. Everyone from doctors to well-intentioned family members to rom com characters cautions that if we want to be mums, we’d best get to it by the big 3-5, before our eggs dry up and we turn into sad spinsters.
You guys, on the other hand? You can make babies whenever you want (I’m looking at you, Rod Stewart). But recent research is shining light on the role a man’s biology plays in the baby game. It turns out your clocks are ticking too – just quieter than ours. There’s mounting evidence that male fertility decreases with age, and the risk of genetic problems in offspring increases. In other words, if you’re planning on having a family someday, you really should aim to check off that box before age 35, too.
Men who are aged 35 and older are twice as likely to be infertile as men under 30. Even though you produce sperm all your life, the count falls in your late thirties, and drops significantly in your late forties. The decline may be less acute than the drop in eggs as women grow older – but you shouldn’t assume your age doesn’t count. And it’s not only the quantity of your sperm that takes a dive – quality suffers too.
You regenerate new sperm cells every time you ejaculate, but just like an organ, as testicular cells age they don’t function as well. The older you get, the more likely your cellular replications will produce chromosomal mutations. Studies have shown there’s a higher occurrence of Down’s syndrome, autism, and schizophrenia in babies of older men. It’s also the case that women are more likely to miscarry with a partner 35 or older, due to abnormal sperm.
Babies & beer guts
There’s one other factor you need to consider: your overall health. For women, age is the most important factor when it comes to their fertility. But an unhealthy man – someone who is overweight, smokes, does drugs or drinks too much – is running the risk of interfering with his sexual functions, as well as his sperm production and quality.
Bottom line: if you’re in a committed relationship with someone you know you want to have children one day, you might want to broach the topic sooner. Don’t assume your swimmers will be as fit as Ian Thorpe forever. You might not be able to stop the aging process, but at least you can look after yourself and stay fit, so the two of you have the best chance of having a healthy baby. Remember that you’re in this together and that your partner can be as supportive and understanding as you want her to be. If you want to have a baby someday, you should strive to have a healthy little fellow. And the longer you wait, the more obstacles you may face. The earlier you get on the same page regarding your timeline to start a family, the better.
Have a happy week,
P.S. I’m not saying you should go ahead and have a child right this second, but you should definitely sit down with your partner, have an honest talk about it and evaluate your options.