All products HSA/FSA eligible. Monthly financing options available. Buy now, pay later with Affirm. Free 2-day shipping.
December 22, 2023
Though many men can have children into their 50s and beyond, there are some challenges associated with becoming an older dad. Semen volume, sperm quality, and testosterone production all decrease with each passing year. Even more importantly, the risk of a child having genetic abnormalities also increases with paternal age. At the same time, the average age of first-time parents is getting higher and higher, as people put off having kids to pursue their careers, save money, or meet the right person.
If you’ve been asking yourself Is 50 too old to be a dad?, read on to find out everything you need to know about fatherhood after 50, explore the relationship between aging and male fertility, and learn about the steps you can take to safeguard your chances of having a child when you’re ready, whether that’s five years from now or 20.
Answer a few questions and we’ll build a plan for you.
Take our 3-minute quiz to find out.
Despite the notion that men can produce children indefinitely, how many of them are actually doing it? According to a study looking at four decades of data, less than 1% of newborns in the US are born to dads over age 50. However, the average paternal age has increased over the course of the study years, from 27 to 31 years. Race, location, and education level also play a role in the average age of fatherhood.
Some interesting findings from the study:
There are benefits to becoming a dad after 50. Older dads are typically more well established financially, have stable careers and family lives, and are more emotionally mature. The cons of being an older dad are primarily attributed to declining fertility. This decline makes it less likely that those who want to become dads at age 50 will be able to have a healthy child.
Older dads often have more established careers, financial stability, and better savings, which can provide greater resources for their child. According to data from the Federal Reserve, Americans between 45 and 55 have an average of $48,000 in savings, compared to $11,000 for Americans under 35.
Older dads often have established support networks, including extended family and friends, who can offer support during the parenting journey.
Age often brings emotional maturity and deeper self-awareness, which can make the parenting experience more rewarding for some, and can allow them to be better, more patient parents. In a 2012 survey, 57% of men who became fathers after 40 expressed that their emotional maturity provided a clear advantage to having children later in life.
Studies indicate that parents who have children when they’re older are happier than younger parents. This is likely attributed to a feeling of preparedness.
One Harvard study found that children of older parents are more likely to experience longer lives compared to those born to younger fathers due to longer telomeres.
We’ll go into more detail on this, but one of the most significant downsides to having kids later in life is decreased fertility. Sperm quantity and quality drop throughout a man’s 30s and 40s, making it more challenging to conceive.
Older males also tend to have older female partners. This can present a compounded challenge, as female fertility starts to decline more significantly in a woman’s 30s.
If you do conceive, the risk of having a child with genetic abnormalities is higher. Studies show that paternal age increases the frequency of congenital diseases and mental disorders.
Interestingly, having a baby with a 50-year-old man can increase the risk of pregnancy complications, even for younger women. The data suggests the older a father is, the higher the risk that the mother will develop gestational diabetes, or experience a preterm labor or pregnancy loss.
While fathers of any age can face health issues, older dads are at an increased risk of medical problems simply because they’re getting older. The physical toll of parenthood (poor sleep, higher stress) can potentially exacerbate any health issues that arise.
Many men think that just because they make sperm or semen for their entire lives, that they’re equally fertile from puberty to death. This is not the case. The quantity of sperm you produce as well as the quality of that sperm declines measurably as you age, especially after age 40.
Compared to men 25 years or younger, men 45 years or older are 12 times more likely to experience extended infertility, in which a couple is not able to get pregnant after 2 years of trying. This is likely thanks to reduced sperm health; one study found that only 42% of men over age 51 met the World Health Organization’s standard for semen quality, compared to 61% of men under age 51.
Fertility treatment such as IVF can’t necessarily fix issues of sperm quality that come with age. In a study of nearly 5,000 in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) cycles, researchers found that IVF success rates declined significantly for men over age 51.
Research indicates that men above the age of 50 are 6 times more likely to have low sperm counts, compared to men in their 20s.
Motility refers to the forward motion swimming of the sperm, an essential factor in the sperm’s ability to reach and fertilize the egg. Motility also declines with age, about 1% per year.
Sperm DNA fragmentation refers to the degree of abnormal genetic material within sperm. High levels of damaged sperm DNA may contribute to male infertility, IVF failure, and miscarriage. Men above the age of 50 are 4.58 times more likely to have high levels of sperm DNA fragmentation, compared to males aged 21–30 years.
The risk of acquiring medical issues also increases with age. Examples include viral orchitis or sexually transmitted infections that can negatively impact male fertility.
Men over 50 also have a higher incidence of erectile dysfunction (ED) and lower libido. In one study of 1290 men, the probability of having severe ED increased threefold and the probability of moderate ED increased twofold between age 40 and age 70. In that same cohort, men engaged in sexual activity an average of 6.5 times per month before 40; this dropped to 4–5 times a month after age 50, and 2–4 times per month after age 60.
Spermatogenesis, the process of producing sperm, requires sufficient testosterone inside the testicles. Around age 40, testosterone levels begin to naturally drop. This is likely the result of changes in the body’s endocrine system or a decrease in the number of Leydig cells.
Can a 50 year old man father a healthy child? The short answer is yes, it is possible.
But the risk of complications increases with a father’s age. Advanced paternal age is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. Men over 50 are 28 percent more likely to have a child that requires admission to the neonatal intensive care unit for preterm birth.
Additionally, there’s a higher risk of congenital diseases and deformities, such as heart malformations or oral, palate, and lip cleft, for babies of older dads. Children born to older fathers are also at greater risk of having autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia.
If you’re in your 50s and hoping to become a father, there are steps you can take to improve your sperm quality and increase your chances of having a healthy child.
Lifestyle adjustments to support sperm health include:
I want to have kids later in life. What can I do now?
If you’re still relatively young but not ready to have kids, don’t let the challenges of advanced paternal age dissuade you. Instead, take action now to safeguard your chances of starting a family when you are ready.
Making healthy lifestyle changes is one way to maintain your sperm health, but it’s not the only way. Freezing your sperm while it’s at its youngest can provide you with ultimate flexibility and security. Sperm freezing preserves the health of your sperm right now, so you can use it later in life, when getting someone pregnant naturally may be more difficult.
You can also start with a baseline understanding of your sperm health. A sperm analysis test from Legacy tests all key metrics of sperm health from home. You’ll also have the option to freeze your sample if your results indicate that your sperm is healthy and viable.Learn more about sperm freezing with Legacy.
Explore more collections