Dad's age matters too: Babies born to older fathers have "more health issues"
Much is said and written about the age of mothers, and how advanced maternal age impacts fertility rates and both mothers' and babies' health.
However, as it turns out, men who start families later in life should also be aware of the potential health risks to their children, according to a new US study, which found that babies born to older fathers tend to have more medical issues than those born to younger men.
According to the Guardian, researchers at Stanford University in California studied health records linked to all live births in the US between 2007 and 2016, amounting to more than 40 million babies. The records showed that children born to men aged 45 and over had a 14 percent greater risk of premature birth, low birth weight and being admitted to neonatal intensive care compared with babies born to younger fathers.
As well as this, infants born to men aged 45 and over also scored lower on the Apgar newborn health test, and were 18 percent more likely to have seizures compared with infants born to fathers aged 25 to 34 years, according to the study in the British Medical Journal.
And the risk didn't stop at children. For mothers, the risk of gestational diabetes was greater when they had children with older men.
In fact, although the increased risks were pretty modest, researchers are keen to point out that couples should not ignore the father’s age when it came to family planning.
“This is something else to take into consideration," explains Michael Eisenberg, a senior author on the report. "There are potential risks with waiting. Men should not think that they have an unlimited runway.”
Eisenberg and his colleagues suggest changes in the DNA of older men’s sperm might explain their findings. The concern is backed up by previous work, including a Harvard study last year that found births through IVF fell as the fathers’ age increased.
However, Eisenberg stressed that despite the stats, the increased risks for individuals are still small.
“When I talk to couples about health risks, I use the lottery as an analogy,” Eisenberg said. “If you buy two tickets, your chances of winning double, but you are still unlikely to win. Even if your risk for something goes up 10-20%, the absolute risk for an individual doesn’t change that much.