Male Biological Clock is Ticking, Too
Older Age Affects Male Fertility, Especially After Age 45
Sexual Function Isn't Everything
Peter Schlegel, MD, acting chairman of the department of urology at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, says there have been a lot of bits and pieces of information on male age and fertility, but "this is the most definitive study to look at the issue and sort out the effects."
"From a couple's or individual's standpoint, assuming that a man's fertility will continue because his sexual function does is not something you should do, it's an incorrect assumption," Schlegel tells WebMD.
Experts say age gradually begins to take its toll on sperm starting at about age 30, and a more abrupt decline in male fertility starts at age 45.
"The quality of sperm is not as good as men get older, which is associated with fertility and genetic problems," says Harry Fisch, MD, director of the Male Reproductive Center at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, also in New York City.
The age-related decline in the quality of sperm is also more severe in men with conditions that affect sperm production or the ability of the testes to cool, such as an undescended testicle.
A New Look at Infertility
Fisch says the results of this study should encourage doctors to take a more serious look at male age when dealing with infertility issues.
"It takes the onus off the woman, it's not just a woman's problem," Fisch tells WebMD. "There is a male biological clock, and that clock affects fertility."
"It's no longer maternal and paternal age, it's parental age that needs to be considered," he says.
Because the study only looked at couples that achieved pregnancy, researchers say the findings may actually underestimate the effect of male age on infertility, and future studies should also include couples that were unsuccessful in their conception attempts.
But researcher Killick says the findings should be a cause of reassurance, not worry for couples trying to conceive.
"It gives us a greater understanding of the fertility process, and the more we know about natural conception, the more we can intervene when something goes wrong," Killick tells WebMD.