Late pregnancies have become a norm in the recent days. Working urban couples in their late 30s or early 40s visiting doctors for their first child has become a common sight. The age of marriage, career aspirations, a changed outlook on life or even fertility issues; whatever may be the reasons the age of conception has been pushed up. This choice though is comfortable for the couple, it does have its due repercussions on the health of their child, researchers claim.

It is well known how women gradually lose their ability to reproduce after the age 35 and their chances of mothering a child take a hit. Even if they do conceive, it is believed that the child is at the risk of having healthy problems. But new research suggests that it is not mother, but the father’s age is what effects the health of the off-spring.

So, is it true that kids of older fathers are at an increased risk of health problems?

Yes. According to numerous medical research studies, older the father higher is the risk of miscarriages, autism, schizophrenia and certain type of health problems for the child.

But why does the age of the father affect the health of the child?

Unlike men, women are born with the finite number of eggs in their body. So, it is fairly understandable why their reproductive prowess fizzles out as they age. But men continue to produce sperm almost their entire life time. So older men never had to share the blame.

Evidently it is the quality of the sperm that takes the priority when compared to the quantity. The sperm replicates its DNA and then splits into two, over and over again. Each time this process happens, there is a good chance that small changes happen in the DNA. These mutation increases as men age and there is a high chance that the DNA has gone through a large number of mutations eventually decreasing the sperm quality. Thus conception at an older age increases the risk of genetic conditions like autism, schizophrenia, early onset of cancer in the child.

Does this mean that an older couple must refrain from having a child?

Though medical research does say that there is a double risk (2 in 100), the chances are very low in the first place. The chances are pretty less when compared to everything we go through life, but it is important to know the risks before you get into one, isn’t it?

Make the right choice:

Since time immemorial it was always the women who bore the blame for the healthy issues of the child. Agreed that the women’s role in reproduction is more evident when compared to that of men’s, recent medical studies have made it clear that importance of father’s age and reproductive health.
So, if you are that young couple who have taken the decision to postpone your parenthood, this knowledge can help you re-examine your course of action.

Given you are putting a risk on your child’s health, is the delay really worth it?

Got more doubts and still unable to decide?
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The New York Times
Science Daily