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Men delaying kids must worry too, says study

When it comes to parenthood, the biological clock ticks not just for women but for men as well, a long-term study finds

George Clooney was 56 years old when Amal (39) gave birth to their twins.

The longer men delay starting a family, the more it can affect the health of their partner and the children, according to a study reported by European medical journal Maturitas.

The study was conducted over 40 years on the effects of parental age on fertility, pregnancy and the health of the children.

Quoting several news agencies, lead author of the research, Gloria Bachmann, said, “While it is widely accepted that physiological changes that occur in women after 35 can affect conception, pregnancy and the health of the child, most men do not realise their advanced age can have a similar impact.”

The study went on to explain that men above 45 years can experience decreased fertility and put their partners at risk with pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth.

The children were also found to be at higher risk of premature birth, late stillbirth, low scores, low birth weight, higher incidence of newborn seizures and birth defects such as congenital heart disease and cleft palate.

As they get mature, these children had an increased likelihood of childhood cancers, psychiatric and cognitive disorders, and autism. 

Dr Manisha Singh, obstetrics and gynaecology consultant, Fortis Hospital, says the outcome of a pregnancy outcome cannot be governed by one factor.

“There is a basic difference of a biological clock in men an women. In a woman, there is a finite age of 50 or 51 when it comes to an end because the egg reserve has finished in her ovaries and the hormone dips. She then enters menopause. There isn’t a time period like that for men,” she says.

Men have andropause in which their hormone level dips and over time, they might face erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory problems, and breast enlargement because of the testosterone levels coming down.

“So you can’t base this age and say this is the cause for it as there are so many other factors involved during the older stage of his life,” she says.

Current lifestyle is also a factor, Dr Manisha says.

“If a man is 45, working in a high-stress position and a smoker, the nicotine has already damaged the sperm. So the baby can have problems but the female factors play a bigger role,” she explains. 

Dr Ruchi Gupta, consultant child psychiatrist, says other studies suggest the age of the grandfather can determine if the child will develop autism.

“The age of the grandfather when the father was born can help one understand the child’s growth, according to the study. So yes, to an extent, there is a male genetical clock ticking too,” she says.

The universal fact is that the number of eggs in a woman is predetermined. The same goes for men but they keep producing sperm even though the quality decreases over time, doctors say.

Having a child later in life can also impact the family on a psychological basis.

“If the parents are older, there is stress in times of their lifespan. The child will constantly worry about the parents’ health, which might not be a great environment to grow up in,” she says.

But the concept of ‘age is just a number’ is what is mostly trending. Many Hollywood celebrities above 50 have been announcing the birth of children on social media. Some Bollywood actors are opting for surrogacy. 

“I wouldn’t say it’s a bad approach but I suggest that parents get a genetic test done and evaluate if their sperm is good enough to have a baby. Always take precautionary measures before you decide to have a child,” Dr Ruchi advises.

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