Dr. Walid Saleh of CRE (previously SIRM-Dallas) Discusses Paternal Age and Reproduction

It is well established that a woman’s reproductive clock slows down with age. Men, on the other hand, feel that they have all the time in the world and can drink, smoke and still conceive at any age with no impact on their fertility or reproductive outcome. Well, that isn’t so! As men age, their fertility decreases and the health risks to their unborn offspring skyrocket. But men who attend to their health can slow down the reproductive clock.

New research indicates that as men age, sperm quality decreases and the risk of having a child with autism (x6), schizophrenia (x3) and even breast and prostate cancer increases, especially after the age of 40. While fertility may not be markedly affected, DNA integrity is, and as result, can increase the risk of miscarriage or health problems in offspring.  In other words, the same recommendation of conceiving sooner rather than later needs to be given to men.

In a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the authors found that when both parents are over 35, paternal aging may be responsible for as many as half of all cases of Down syndrome, formerly thought to be inherited exclusively from the mother. Other researchers have found that rare mutations like Apert syndrome, Crouzon syndrome, and Pfeiffer syndrome (all characterized by facial abnormalities and the premature fusion of skull bones) as well as achondroplasia (the most common form of dwarfism) increase with paternal age.

These findings have profound implications for any potential parent. Men should share the potential of birth defects with their female partner and take better care of themselves, especially above age 40.  Freezing sperm at a younger age is a viable option. Frozen sperm has similar pregnancy rates vs. fresh insemination and may lower the chance of birth defects if used for fertility preservation before delaying conception.

We offer a full range of male fertility testing (in addition to female fertility testing) at our clinic in Dallas, so if you are concerned about the impact that your age may have on your fertility, call 972-566-6686 to schedule a consultation with me.

Dr. Walid Saleh is a physician with CRE (previously SIRM-Dallas). Read other articles from Dr. Saleh on the ABC of infertility by clicking HERE.