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Men's Health

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The Changing Face of Fatherhood

More men are opting for fatherhood later in life for a variety of reasons. Are the challenges different?

Setting the Male Biological Clock continued...

Additionally, older men may have lower sperm counts. "There is a gradual decrease in sperm, the quality is poorer, and sperm swim less vigorously, so the pregnancy takes longer to achieve," he says.

Still, "the majority of older men with healthy younger wives are able to get pregnant, and most of the time, the babies are normal," he says.

This even holds among men who have had vasectomies in the past and decide to reverse them. A recent study by Goldstein and colleagues found that vasectomy reversal is highly effective, even 15 years or more after the procedure. If a man had a vasectomy this year or 15 years ago, there was no difference in the pregnancy rate achieved following reversal.

That's not to say achieving a pregnancy and fathering a child aren't markedly easier for younger men. "If they decide they want kids, couples should do it sooner rather than later and have the man checked right from the beginning," he suggests. A semen analysis will assess sperm quality and count.

Are 50s the New 30s?

"I think there is a trend toward midlife fatherhood," says Terrence Real, founder of the Relational Recovery Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and author of several books on male emotional health.

"It's pretty clear that men in their 40s are significantly more interested in children than previous generations, and men are somewhat more interested in fatherhood from the 50s on up," Real says.

The reasons are many, he says.

"More men are engaged in second marriages, and there is often an age gap in a second marriage," he says. "If an older man takes a younger wife who does not have kids, there are very good odds he will have children."

In addition, baby boomers are revamping expectations about aging. "Men are thinking that they are in their prime at age 50," he says, adding, that "adolescence keeps getting extended, so it takes longer for men to settle down" as well.

Midlife Crisis?

Men spend decades on the conveyor belt, and now they are assessing where this conveyor belt has taken them, Real explains. If he was fairly successful, he may look around and think, "This is great, but I still feel like something important is missing."

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