Well studied are the effects of maternal age and risk for miscarriage and aneuploidy (abnormal number of chromosomes). Less attention was focused on the risks of advanced paternal age. The average age of a woman having her first child has increased over the last two decades. Sensibly, so has the number of older men fathering children. Male fertility declines more gradually, and thus their biologic option remains present.
Andropause naturally occurs in mid-to-later 40s and may result in declining sexual function. Additionally, medical conditions (cardiovascular), metabolic and even some cancers may affect both function and semen parameters. Enlarging of the prostate and its effect on the male reproductive system may also play a role.
From a semen quality stance, the sperm count is anticipated to decrease although some studies suggest the fertilizing potential remains equivalent. However, it may not be just a count issue, the quality of the sperm and the natural effects of aging are anticipate to affect the germline in the testes. Although men are generating new sperm from puberty onward, the germline cells serve as the source. Alterations to this germline, as anticipated with age, affect the quality of the individual sperm produced.
But perhaps, it is not just the quality of the sperm. Concerns include increased chances of aneuploidy (such as Down’s) as well as psychiatric and neurocognitive disorders. Autism spectrum disorders are more commonly found in children born to older men; however it is not a disorder exclusive to aged parenting. Knowledge is power and understanding paternal and maternal risk is essential to the process.
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