It is traditional to advise married women not to postpone child bearing as there is fear of complications like birth defects, mongolism etc if the mother crosses a particular age limit, say 35 years or so. Such a fear was not expressed with regard to the age of the father but now it seems gender equality is catching up here as well.
Men who start families later in life should be aware of the potential health risks to their children, according to US doctors who found that babies born to older fathers tend to have more medical issues than those born to younger men.
According to the study published in the British Medical Journal, children born to men aged 45 and over had a 14% greater risk of premature birth, low birth weight and being admitted to neonatal intensive care compared with babies born to younger fathers.
Infants born to men aged 45 and over scored lower on the Apgar new born health test, and were 18% more likely to have seizures compared with infants born to fathers aged 25 to 34 years. For women, the risk of gestational diabetes was greater when they had children with older men.
Michael Eisenberg, a senior author on the report, said that while the increased risks were modest, couples should not ignore the father’s age when it came to family planning. “This is something else to take into consideration,” he said. “There are potential risks with waiting. Men should not think that they have an unlimited runway.”
Hilary Brown, a perinatal epidemiologist at the University of Toronto in Scarborough, cautioned that despite the researchers’ efforts, it was hard to disentangle the effects of the mother’s and father’s ages. And she warned that damage to DNA in older men’s sperm was only one possible explanation for the effects.
“Studies have shown that advanced paternal age is associated with negative health behaviours such as smoking and frequent alcohol consumption, obesity, chronic disease, mental illness, and sub-fertility,” she writes, adding that all are linked to health problems in new-born
(BMJ 1 November 2018).