Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. That is the sound of your biological clock ticking away. Not you ladies, this wake up call is for the men. A recent study has shown that fathering a child at an advanced age may lead to mental disabilities in the offspring and can affect male fertility as well.

The latest news of Rolling Stone lead singer Mick Jagger fathering a child at the age of 73, has lead to ample debate as to whether siring children at that age is advisable. A Swedish study that studied babies born between 1973 and 2001 showed that ones that were born to fathers aged 45 and more were more prone to conditions like ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and are more likely to get bad grades in school and get addicted to drugs.

Is it safe?

Being a father at 50 is not much of a concern and many have babies without any developmental or physical disorders, but it does not imply that delayed fatherhood is risk-free. The male reproductive physiology differs from the female in that a woman is already born with all the eggs needed in her lifetime, whereas in males, sperms are produced on a daily basis lifelong almost.

Every time the heart beats, a thousand sperms are produced and most of them never fertilize an egg. They are either ejaculated or broken down by the body once they have matured.

However, due to factors like ageing, environmental toxins or radiation, the quality of sperms produced are not similar to the ones in the prime and the cells that produce testosterone and help in nurturing new sperms fail to function optimally.

What about mutations?

As a result, the newer sperms that are produced are genetically defective that contain DNA mutations that can affect the baby to be. A research published in the journal Nature has revealed that the average 30 year old father can carry almost 55 mutations that increases with a factor of 2 with every passing age. However, not all these mutations are dangerous. After the age of 40, testosterone levels in men may fall affecting their sexual health. The risk of pregnancy ending in miscarriage also increases twice when the male is older than 45 as compared to when they were 25 years of age.

To protect male fertility it is essential to be healthy and follow a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Cutting back on smoking and reducing alcohol intake  are also some of the ways to increase fertility. Supplements for male fertility include testosterone injections, testosterone pills, testosterone boosters  etc.

The bottom line remains that though male fertility is affected with advancing age, it is still possible to have a healthy child even at the age of 60.

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Visit Gynecologist,MBBS, MD Obstetrics & Gynaecology, MRCOG,13 years experience

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