There is a bit of a myth that women are the ones with age-related fertility problems and a man can father children even when he’s ancient! Yes there are famous older Dads – Charlie Chaplin, Des OConnor and Bruce Forsyth to name but a few, but new research has shown that actually sperm ages too, with deterioration of the DNA leading to a higher risk of genetic problems in the offspring, such as schizophrenia and autism (Wyrobek et al). This also applies to men who are starting again, maybe in a new relationship and they already have children so assume all is well. This study follows a French one suggesting that paternal as well as maternal age is also a risk factor for miscarriage (de la Rochebrochard et al), as well as impairing fertility in men after the age of 40.
Moreover another study from Australia (Burne et al) found neurocognitive impairment such as dyslexia was higher in the children of older fathers. It seems that age also diminishes sperm motility and both correlate with high DNA fragmentation. Interestingly, the duration of abstinence (may be longer in older men) leads to greater exposure to free radicals and oxidative damage.
So what to do about it?
- Have babies earlier; don’t put it off, because time does matter for you too.
- Have more frequent sex, three times a week if you are trying to conceive. Don’t ‘save’ it up for the fertile week and then do nothing the rest of the time.
- Do not smoke; smoking leads to serious genetic mutations in sperm and if age then compounds it you are probably really harming your chances of having a healthy baby.
- Eat a diet high in anti-oxidants in strongly coloured fruit and vegetables, zinc and B vitamins in fish, shellfish, whole grains and seeds and good fats in oily fish, olive oil and seeds.
- Take a good male multivitamin containing folic acid and selenium.
- Don’t let your testicles get hot.