Men May Have Biological Clocks, Too
Some researchers say a man's age may affect not only his ability to father a child -- but the health of his offspring.
The biological clock may no longer be ticking on just the woman's side of
If current research is correct, a man's baby-making alarm may start to ring
not too long after a woman's chimes its final warning toll -- around age
"I don't want there to be a panic, but I think it's safe to say that the
father's age should be one of many factors couples should put into the equation
when planning a family," says Karine Kleinhaus, MD, PhD, a researcher at
Columbia University who recently spearheaded a study on paternal age and miscarriage.
Over the past decade -- and particularly during the last five years --
studies have been mounting indicating that the age of the father may affect the
health of the offspring in more ways than one.
Risk of Birth Defects
Associations have been made between paternal age and the risk of birth
defects and developmental disorders such as autism
and Apert's syndrome, as well as mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Moreover, studies conducted by
Kleinhaus and colleagues at Columbia University looked at some 90,000 births
and concluded the older a man is when he conceives a child, the more likely his
partner is to miscarry -- even when she is young, healthy, and has no other
Many believe this is just the beginning of what there is to learn.
"What we know now may be just the tip of the iceberg, particularly
regarding birth issues we don't fully understand. We are just beginning to look
at the role of a father's age. And as time goes by it's likely we are going to
learn a lot more," says Jeremy Silverman, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at
Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and the researcher of a study that
associated paternal age with risks of autism.
Aging Dads: What Goes Wrong
Like every system in the body, experts say the male reproductive organs have
not been spared the ravages of time.
"First there seems to be some clear changes that happen on a purely
chemical level as a man ages. He has lower testosterone levels, lower DHEA,
lower estrogen, plus higher levels of FSH and LH, which signal pretty much the
same thing in men as in women -- reproductive failure," says Hackensack
University embryologist Dave McCulloh, PhD, director of laboratory services at
University Reproductive Associates in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.