How old is too old to become a dad?
Men can have healthy sperm, thus birth a healthy baby late into life.
Males make new sperm continually through their reproductive years which extends very late in life. When we look at semen in men as they age the overall volume, the percentage of normal sperm, and the motility of the sperm themselves, all decreases with age. So when trying for pregnancy the age of the dad will increase the time it takes to get pregnant. For men by age 50 the pregnancy rates are about 30% lower, and a few studies indicate that fertility in men over 30 actually starts to decrease.
Preconception planning cannot detect all abnormalities, yet it's healthiest if you and your partner both have a pregnancy planning visit. New mutations in sperm can occur that would not be detected by family history or specialized testing.
Men can have fertility issues as they age. There appears to be waning of fertility as men age based on most study, but not increase of birth defects or poor pregnancy outcomes as men age. Like women, men are having children later in life, and the newest study of over 800,000 men from the University of Cincinnati and published in the AJOG Nov 2017 actually could not show that older paternal age showed any risk factors for pregnancy outcomes. In fact in that study they didn't show a significant increase in any fetal problems like growth, or birth defects, or genetic problems, or chances of landing in neonatal intensive care. Dads, like moms, can pass on a chromosome defect to their children. In moms the risk of chromosomal problems increases for each year she ages. Although the risk of fathering downs syndrome or other chromosomal problems is not directly increased as dads age year by year, the way it is for moms.
Advanced paternal ages is designated at 45, and these dads are more likely to father children with birth defects. Compared to younger men, the risk of a older dad having a baby with a new dominant gene mutation increases 7 times. In fact there is a new recommendation for pregnant moms with baby dads over the age of 45 to have a more detailed ultrasound examination at 18 to 20 weeks gestation because skeletal disorders are more commonly found. Also older baby dads are several times more likely to have a baby with a heart defect. So special detailed ultrasounds of the baby's heart, called fetal echocardiogram, are also recommended by some experts, for dads fathering babies.
So when planning pregnancy, and asking about the risks of infertility and about the risks of a pregnancy as you age, be sure and tell your gyno how old the dad is too! Call 217-356-3736 to come in as a couple for a pregnancy planning visit!