“I’m going to focus on my career for now and I’ll figure out kids later in my thirties.”
“I’m in no rush to have kids. I have plenty of time.”
Men and women are deciding to try for children at older and older ages.
Women may hear about celebrities getting pregnant after 50, or they may have a boss who had her first child in her early forties. However, there is often an unseen side to this story that may involve years of struggle and expensive infertility treatments like IVF.
Men learn that they will continue producing sperm into old age, and believe that age related infertility is not a concern for them, without understanding that sperm quality can deteriorate making conception more difficult and increasing risks for disease in their future children.
A woman’s fertility is tied to the set number of eggs her body will produce throughout her life. Fertility changes as women age, with more serious impacts starting in the mid or late thirties, when the body stops making as much of the reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Then, during menopause (typically around age 51), women’s ovaries stop producing eggs, and natural pregnancy is no longer possible. It is important to note, that reproductive ability frequently ends 5 to 10 years before menopause.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. Women are taught about their reproductive timeline at a young age, and it can often prompt them to think more practically about their future family, than men do. Life plans such as finding a partner, advancing your career, and having children are all considered with an understanding of this biological clock. This can be complicated when a male partner doesn’t have the same understanding. However, men should be planning for their biological clock just the same.
The impact of age on male fertility hasn’t received the same focus as its impact on female fertility, because it does not have as obvious of an impact. However, that is no reason to discount it!
Age can significantly affect sperm quality. Testosterone production begins to decline, impacting sexual function and sperm quality. Sperm motility, or movement, is impacted making it more difficult for sperm to reach a woman’s egg. There is also an increase in abnormal sperm morphology, or shape, which can affect sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg.
Older dad’s also experience an increase in the risk for genetic disease in offspring. For example, a 50 year old man has double the risk that his child will have down syndrome than the risk of a 25 year old. While the risk is still low, the increase is significant.