Are men bad parents

Men and the "biological clock" Old fathers are also a risk factor for children

Menopause - it starts sometime around the middle of the 40s in women, earlier in a few, later in some. They can then no longer have children, which is why there is often talk of the woman's "biological clock". And it just ticks. And the older the mother, the higher the health risk for pregnancy. Doctors also agree quite a bit on this. But with the man?

The man's "biological clock" is also ticking

Theoretically, men can have children all their lives, spermiogenesis never stops. So as long as the testicles function and the man can ejaculate, it is also possible to have offspring. But apparently from a medical point of view it is not necessarily advisable to do something just because you can. This is shown by a meta study by Rutgers University from the USA, which was published in the specialist magazine "Maturitas". In it, the doctors analyzed 40 years of medical research into the influence of the age of fathers on fertility, pregnancy and the health of children.

The result of the analysis: Men too have a ticking "biological clock" that can influence the health of their partners and their children, the researchers write.

While it is generally accepted that physiological changes that occur in women after 35 can affect conception, pregnancy, and the health of the child, most men are unaware that their advanced age can have similar effects.

Dr. med. Gloria A. Bachmann, Rutgers University

The medical profession disagrees about exactly which age can be considered "advanced" in men. The information fluctuated between 35 and 45 years. According to a study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, six percent of all new fathers in Germany in 2013 were 45 years of age or older. That was almost three times as many as in 1995 - and the trend is rising.

Over 45 fathers risk for wife and child

The fact that older fathers can be a risk factor for the child has long been discussed in medicine. The older the man, the sooner the woman should, at best, be in her twenties so that the baby is safely born healthy, explains Dr. Christian Leiber from the German Society for Andrology.

There are clear data that prove: In fathers who are relatively well over the age of 50, the risk for certain genetic disorders, for prematurity, for low birth weight, possibly also things that are related to intelligence, is such that it because there can be negative effects - not necessarily, but can.

Dr. Christian Leiber, University Hospital Freiburg

The meta-analysis by the Rutgers doctors now suggests that the risk threshold could actually start at 45 years of age. Accordingly, their partners are exposed to a higher risk of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (pregnancy poisoning) and premature birth.

Less testosterone, worse sperm

Among other things, the data confirm a significantly higher risk of premature birth, late birth, low birth weight and a higher incidence of birth defects such as congenital heart disease and cleft palate among newborns. With increasing age, the children would also have an increased risk of developing cancer or psychiatric and cognitive disorders in childhood. The occurrence of autism is also to be associated with the old age of the father, it is said. However, some assumptions were based on correlations that need further investigation, the authors note.

Physician Bachmann attributes most of these results to the natural drop in testosterone levels in men. It begins to decline more or less quickly from around the age of 40. In addition, the sperm quality then decreases more and more.

Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and stamina with age, sperm also tend to lose fitness over the entire life cycle

Dr. med. Gloria A. Bachmann, Rutgers University

Age stress can alter the germline

According to the US doctors, one reason for the higher risk is that aging stress can change the genetic material of sperm and egg cells and these changes are then passed on to the DNA of the offspring. This can also affect the pregnancy itself and lead to an increased risk of pregnancy, says Bachmann. In addition, these germline or hereditary mutations would contribute to the increasing age of the fathers, so too do the disorders in the genome of the offspring.

Andrologist Leiber also refers to the genes. They would be modulated by certain factors. For example, there are certain enzymes that switch genes on and off again, says Leiber. This reglation is known as epigenetics. And then it was seen that fathers who are older could experience epigenetic disorders, which are then supposed to cause certain changes.

Sperm freeze before the age of 35

In general, older people should think twice about whether they actually want to father a child at an advanced age, says Leiber. He advises you to seek advice from reproductive medicine specialists and to make use of a genetic analysis for risk assessment.

I think as a potential parent you have a high degree of responsibility and of course I have to think about it beforehand: Would I be willing to accept it if a child is born with a disability? With such constellations, we would recommend from a reproductive medicine point of view that genetic counseling takes place beforehand.

Dr. Christian Leiber, University Hospital Freiburg

The doctors at Rutgers University, on the other hand, rely on precautionary advice: If you want to postpone the topic of fatherhood, you should think about freezing your own sperm until the age of 35 or at the latest until the age of 45, in order to reduce the risk for mother and child decrease later.

In general, it is not very helpful that men, unlike women, are less informed and less attentive to their reproductive health. Most men would only see a doctor if they had a medical problem or a fertility problem. That is why the medical profession needs to be better informed about the influence of age on conception, pregnancy and the health of children.