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This is how the biological clock ticks in men

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  • Is there a biological clock ticking in men too?
  • So can men still father children in old age?
  • Do the health risks for mother and child increase as a man ages?
  • When does a man’s biological clock start ticking?
  • Can I positively influence my biological clock?

The age of men when they become fathers for the first time has been rising steadily for years: fathers of first-borns in Germany are on average 33.2 years old, according to figures from the Federal Statistical Office from 2022. More and more people over 40 and 50 are deciding to have one late paternity, while in women of the same age the biological clock has long since expired.

Reports from men like Al Pacino, who has just become a father again at the age of 83, revive the myth that men can easily father children throughout their lives. But men also have a biological clock ticking, albeit differently than women. You can read here how your fertility changes over the years and what you can do to produce healthy sperm for as long as possible.

Is there a biological clock ticking in men too?

In terms of fertility, not to the same extent as women: “The female body has a certain number of eggs from birth, which are used up at a certain point,” explains Dr. Christian Leiber-Caspers, andrologist from Krefeld and board member of the German Society for Andrology (DGA), “This is usually the case between the ages of 40 and 45. The probability of achieving one pregnancy per menstrual cycle is only that for women over 40 at around 2%. This means that a fertility limit for women is clearly defined and final.”

There is no such limit for men. “Men are capable of producing children well into old age because the production of the male sex hormone testosterone only decreases slowly and to a small extent over the course of a man’s life, and the testes can produce new sperm throughout his life,” says Dr. Leiber-Caspers.

So can men still father children in old age?

Theoretically yes. Like Robert de Niro, for example, who at the age of 73 has just become a father again. “But numerous scientific studies show that male fertility decreases with increasing age,” says Dr. Leiber-Caspers, “Over the course of their lives, many men’s ejaculate volume, sperm number or concentration and sperm mobility decrease and sperm morphology deteriorates.” For these reasons, it usually takes longer for older men to actually have a natural pregnancy.

The causes are natural testicular aging, urogenital infections and the fact that the older you get, the longer you are exposed to toxic, mutation-inducing substances from the environment and diet. As a result, the quality of the sperm decreases, genetic defects in the sperm cells increase and the chance of producing a large number of sperm capable of fertilization decreases.

In addition to these natural aging processes, which are difficult to influence, factors such as smoking, high alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet and little exercise can significantly contribute to a man’s fertility being impaired. Fertility into old age is therefore also a question of a healthy lifestyle.

Do the health risks for mother and child increase as a man ages?

Numerous current studies indicate this. “There is strong evidence that increased father age means a statistically increased risk of the baby having a low birth weight,” says expert Dr. Leiber-Caspers. Depending on the study, ‘advanced age’ is considered to be over 40 or over 50.

“Genetic disorders such as trisomy 21, i.e. Down syndrome, or other physical malformations such as a cleft palate are also more common in the offspring of older fathers, as current studies show,” says Dr. Leiber-Caspers. Studies have also shown the increased risks of mental illnesses such as autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders in connection with the age of the biological father.

Other studies indicate that not only an older mother’s age, but also an older father’s reproductive age increases the likelihood that the partner will experience preeclampsia or premature birth during pregnancy.

However, when classifying the data, one must take into account that older fathers usually also have older partners, so that the risk of a missed pregnancy or malformations of the child adds up and it is also difficult to research the cause and find out who is responsible.

When does a man’s biological clock start ticking?

Dr. Christian Leiber-Caspers advises men who want to have children, at the latest after the age of 50, to be examined and advised by an andrologist in advance. Here you can e.g. B. have a DNA fragmentation test carried out, which can help you better assess the risk of having a child with genetic disorders. Men in particular who have a history of rare diseases in their families should make an effort.

If pregnancy does not occur despite the desire to have children, the expert first recommends having a testicular examination done via ultrasound to rule out varicose veins and a spermiogram, in which the number of sperm capable of fertilization and their mobility are examined. “New studies show that in couples with an unfulfilled desire to have children, the cause lies in the man in around 50 percent,” says Dr. Leiber-Caspers.

Then the chance of pregnancy can be increased with the help of artificial insemination. The reproductive doctors identify and remove the sperm that are most capable of fertilization under the microscope and inject them into the egg. A path that many of the prominent late fathers certainly chose. In Germany, the costs of fertility treatment are only covered if the father is younger than 50 years old (and the woman is younger than 40 years old).

In this context, the advisability of freezing sperm at a young age is now being discussed. This “social freezing” is already more common among women. Young women, usually around the age of 25, have eggs removed and frozen so that if they decide to have children later in life, they still have young eggs available that have a higher chance of fertilization. “Theoretically, the same thing would also make sense for men,” says Dr. Leiber-Caspers, “But cryopreservation is very expensive and is only covered by health insurance companies if, for example, the risk of damage to the genetic material is high due to chemotherapy.”

Can I positively influence my biological clock?

Yes, you actually can. Not just in terms of your fertility, but also your life expectancy. “Although we are getting older, statistically speaking men still die 4 years earlier than women,” says Dr. Leiber-Caspers, “The main cause of death in men is still cardiovascular disease.” But these can often be avoided because they are closely linked to lifestyle.

These factors in particular play an important role in your life expectancy and fertility:

  • Smoke not only reduces your life expectancy, but also your sperm production, according to the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA). In addition, elevated levels of cadmium and lead are more often found in the semen of smokers.
  • Alcohol is a cell toxin that, when consumed frequently and in large quantities, damages all organs and thus also the reproductive organs.
  • Overweight is widespread among men: 60.5% of men in Germany are too fat, according to figures from the RKI. This can disrupt testicular function and lead to reduced sperm production. “The cause of obesity is usually Lack of exercise in combination with one too diet high in fat and sugar“, says Dr. Leiber-Caspers. All three factors also pose enormous risks for cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death in men.

Instead of buying any expensive nutritional supplements or phytopharmaceuticals to boost your health and fertility, you should pay attention to lots of exercise in your everyday life, a healthy body weight and a nutritious diet. “There is no super pill that compensates for nutritional sins and lack of exercise,” says Dr. Leiber-Caspers and advises: “If you are sporty, fit and slim and avoid noxious substances such as cigarettes and alcohol, your testosterone levels and sperm quality are usually still high even in old age, so that later fatherhood with healthy offspring is definitely possible.”

Yes, you can become a father at an advanced age, but fertilization will take longer and, after the age of 50, involves risks for mother and child that should be weighed up beforehand. With a healthy, active lifestyle, a normal weight body and a healthy diet, you can significantly contribute to increasing your life expectancy and your fertility range

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