Research questions the common belief that the age of a man has nothing to do with the success of a pregnancy. Of course, for him the urgency of the biological clock is not felt as for the woman, but even in the case of the man, according to some experts, it would be better not to postpone the appointment with the fatherhood.
Fathers without time limits?
In a historical period in which men become fathers at an increasingly advanced age – the average age at which the first child arrives is 35 years, compared to the 31 years of the woman – here is some voice rises, to emphasize that it would be better to reverse the trend. Recent studies have in fact shown that the idea that men can have children easily up to eighty years, as in the universally known case of actor Charlie Chaplin, is a false myth to be debunked.
In fact, the chances of starting a pregnancy are also affected by the father’s age. After the age of 40, even though the man is no longer at the top in terms of reproductive potential: with advancing age, the time needed to conceive a baby can be extended. “Even if the age of the woman has a much greater impact when looking for a baby,” stresses Andrea Borini, clinical manager of the 9. “If a 50-year-old man looks for a child with a partner who is 40 years old, the chances of success are reduced, but if the same man has a partner of 25 years, the father’s age will not be a significant obstacle.
It is true that, on a biological level, the ‘right’ age to become a parent would be between 20 and 30 years, no more, but in our society the age at which the couple feels ready to face the adventure of parenthood has moved forward, for physical reasons (in the past people of 50 years were elderly, today they are in excellent shape!) and socio-cultural (before a child, we seek the realization or at least stability at a professional level). “But fertility is progressively reduced and, in particular for women, the chances of having a child at 35 are lower than at 30, and at 30 they are lower than at 25… After 40, the chances of success become very low”, considers the expert. “This is a truth that is not sufficiently known, while it is a social information that should be the subject of study, from school desks.
Less healthy spermatozoa
Among the studies that have slowed down paternal age, there is that recently carried out by researchers at the University of Oxford, which has associated the advanced age of man with greater difficulty in conceiving and with an increased risk of spontaneous termination of pregnancy. According to the British team, after their fortieth birthday, the danger of genetic abnormalities in the sperm increases.
“The risk of an alteration of the spermatozoa actually begins to manifest itself after the age of 40-45 and increases with age”, Andrea Borini considers, “but it should be stressed that every day the male body produces millions of spermatozoa and the probability that it is precisely a spermatozoon with mutated cells to fertilize the female oocyte is very remote.”
The “healing” power of the oocytes
“If it is true that even spermatozoa, with increasing age, are no longer as perfect as at 20 or 30 years old, the risk that this affects in some way with the success of pregnancy is minimal,” explains Andrea Borini. In addition to a mere calculation of the probabilities, for which it is difficult that out of many millions a sperm with genetic anomalies reaches the egg cell, there is a very suggestive reason. “At the moment of conception, the oocyte incorporates the spermatozoon and its genetic make-up”, says the expert, “and at that point, it is able to repair any chromosomal alterations of the spermatozoon”. Yes, the oocyte has the power to mend many of the possible chromosomal alterations present in the spermatozoa. “That’s why, the age of the man continues to be less decisive when it comes to triggering problems related to the expectation or health of the child that will be born,” says the expert.
Increased risk of miscarriage
But what if, by an unfortunate case, the “sick” spermatozoon were to fertilize the oocyte and the latter did not manage to heal the damage? According to Oxford researchers, the health of the child could be compromised, since modifications to the genetic code of the spermatozoa could cause growth defects or increase the risk of malformations and rare diseases. “In reality, it is more the risk that the embryo is unhealthy and has genetic anomalies that are incompatible with life that increases, so that pregnancy does not proceed and spontaneous abortion occurs,” the expert points out.
Clearly we are talking about very remote eventualities, but it is worth reflecting on the opportunity not to delay too much the adventure of parenting, for the woman and at this point … even for the man!