MALE AGING AND FERTILITY

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Age affects the ability to create a healthy child. Although, not as important as the age factor of women in fertility, the age of man also matters. In other words, fertility is ageist. The new trends in society points to a pattern of increase in the average age of new born parents. With the growing ambitious and career oriented population in today’s world, the age to start a family seems to grow too. An older fatherhood age has become socially acceptable as well.

While the importance of age in a woman’s fertility is well known and talked about, men are usually unaware of it. Until recently it was thought that a man at 70 years was as reproductively healthy as one at 20 years. But recent researches and studies prove otherwise. It is noted that after a certain age, a man’s ability to successfully father a healthy child falls by 11 %, every year. As the man ages, so does his sperm.

Though the changes occurring in male fertility with age is not as noticeable or abrupt as that in women, it is there all the same. With an increase in age, the testes become softer and smaller. The sperm produced loses their quality and ease of mobility. In other words, sperm motility and morphology gets affected. It becomes more difficult to fertilise the egg. Along with this, sperms produced at an older age holds a risk of genetic defects. Other infertility disorders like erectile dysfunction can occur with increasing age, hampering male fertility.

Men above the age of 45 years are known to have lower volume of semen. This can considerably increase the time to conceive. The risk of miscarriages is greater for babies with fathers above the age of 40 years. Facts from several infertility cases have shown that above the age of 40 years, the whole reproductive ability of men starts slowing down. Another issue of age on fertility is that, with increasing age, men may develop many diseases. These diseases can affect the hormonal balance and production of testosterone in them.

The thought that men’s contribution to pregnancy ends with conception is being revamped. Their age is a main factor affecting the health of the child. Babies born to fathers above the age of 45 years are prone to develop disorders such as autism. Studies about Down syndrome in children has thrown light over the effect of age on fatherhood. The risk of schizophrenia is twice in babies born to fathers over 40 years and thrice when the age of fatherhood is above 50 years.

The decline in fertility with age can be controlled to a some extend by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A well consumed diet and regular exercise leading to a fit body can help in prolonging the fertility period. Weight gain should be controlled as obesity is a major concern for fertility in both men and women. Smoking and uses of various recreational drugs can shorten the fertility period drastically.