DEAR MAYO CLINIC: How does paternal age affect fertility? Can the age of the father have an impact on the baby’s health?
ANSWER: Age can have an effect on a man’s fertility. But the influence of aging on fertility in men is not as significant as it is in women. Research has shown that there may be an increase in the risk for certain health problems in the children of older fathers. The risk, however, appears to be small.
After puberty, most men produce sperm throughout the rest of their lives. That means men can conceive a child well into their later years. That said, studies have shown that men who are older than 40 tend to be less fertile than younger men. But even though older age does reduce fertility, a man’s age alone does not seem to have a substantial effect on a couple’s fertility overall. For example, studies have shown that a man’s age does not decrease the success of fertility treatment in couples who seek those services.
A man’s age at the time a baby is conceived is called his paternal age. A woman’s age at conception is maternal age. A woman’s maternal age is considered to be advanced and health risks for a baby increase after age 35. There is no universally accepted definition of when paternal age is considered to be advanced. Various studies have used cutoffs of 40, 50 and even 60 years for advanced paternal age.