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January 17, 2024
Having a baby with a 60-year-old man (or even 70+) seems like nothing out of the ordinary these days. After all, Al Pacino fathered his fourth child at age 82, Robert De Niro welcomed his seventh at age 79, and Jeff Goldblum became a first-time father at age 62.
Studies have revealed that older parents are happier than younger ones, making a solid case for waiting. But if you hope to join the older dad’s club, there are some things you should know about aging and male fertility. Like female fertility, male fertility starts to decline in the mid-30s, and the decline becomes steeper at age 40. This shouldn’t discourage men who hope to have children later in life, but there are some precautions you may want to consider to safeguard your family planning options.
Read on to explore the pros and cons of being an older dad, how paternal age affects a baby’s health, and what you can do to protect your ability to have a child well into the future.
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From financial stability to more free time, there are many benefits to being an older dad. A decline in fertility and lower chances of achieving a healthy pregnancy is probably the most obvious downside.
To help you make an informed choice about becoming a father past age 60, here are some of the top pros and cons of being an older dad.
Data from 2022 suggests that the average total of financial assets for Americans under 35 is around $12,000; that average for people age 55–64 is 10 times as much. So older parents are more likely to have accumulated a solid nest egg for their child’s future.
Many older dads claim that their children keep them young and fit; chasing a little one around all day will do that to you. This may be supported by science: one Finnish study found that men who fathered children at the youngest ages were more inclined to die early, regardless of other factors like their marital status, education, and region where they lived. On the flipside, men who waited until they were at least 30 to have children were more likely to survive past middle age.
Older fathers often have stronger relationships and support networks, including extended family and friends, who can lend a helping hand. They also have more wisdom to impart — chances are you know more (probably a lot more) in your 60s than you did when you were in your 20s. All of this life experience makes you an invaluable role model for your child.
One of the most obvious downsides to being an older father (or hoping to be) is reduced fertility. Sperm health starts to decline around age 35 and worsens over time. This makes it more challenging to conceive without intervention. We’ll explore this age-related fertility decline more below.
Studies show that, compared to men 25 years or younger, men 45 years or older are 12.5 times more likely to take two years or longer to conceive. Would-be older dads may face even more fertility issues if their partner also happens to be older, as female fertility starts to decline as early as age 30.
We’ll go more into detail below, but there is some evidence that children born to older fathers may face some serious health risks. In one study, when fathers had children past age 40, their risk of having a child with autism increased nearly sixfold. Other research revealed that the risks of childhood leukemia, breast, and prostate cancers were also higher among children of older fathers.
While parenting can make you feel younger, it’s no magic elixir. The general wear and tear of being a human can feel more apparent when you’re trying to keep up with someone with zero wear and tear. And it’s not like you can just go and take a nap — there are diapers to be changed and bottles to be warmed.
Though some studies show that being an older dad may extend your lifespan, at some point you will have to face the reality that you won’t be around forever. It’s important to think about average life expectancies and how losing a parent at an earlier age may affect your future child.
While men produce sperm throughout their own lives, it does get harder to conceive with age. Sperm count and quality decline over time. Research shows that men over age of 50 were significantly more likely to have anomalies in semen volume, sperm concentration, and sperm DNA fragmentation. After age 60, the volume of the testes starts to decrease and testosterone levels decline.
Even when sperm parameters are normal, other factors like erectile dysfunction (ED) and low libido can get in the way of conceiving. In one study of 1290 men between ages 40 and 70, the likelihood of having severe ED increased threefold. Sexual frequency also decreased by one to two times per month after age 50 and by another one to two times per month after age 60.
According to a study of nearly 5,000 attempts at pregnancy via ART, 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. Even more, men over age 51 were able to achieve conception just 30% of the time.
So, while 60 isn’t necessarily too old to be a dad, it can be much more difficult to achieve, even with medical assistance. Freezing sperm while you’re still young can allow you to use a healthy semen sample later, increasing your chances of creating a healthy pregnancy.
Can a 60 year old man father a healthy child? It’s possible, but there is some evidence that a child’s health can be impacted by advanced paternal age. Men over age 40 have a higher chance of creating a pregnancy that ends in miscarriage, compared to men in their 30s. Children of older dads also have a significant increase in rare, single gene disorders and congenital anomalies, thought to be due to accumulated damage to sperm DNA. Other studies indicate men over 45 are 14% more likely to have a child born prematurely, and men 50 or older were 28% more likely to have a child that required admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.
As they grow, children of older fathers may also be more at risk for developing childhood cancer. Psychiatric and learning issues may also arise; increased rates of autism and schizophrenia have been found in children with older fathers.
While older fathers do face some unique challenges, there are proactive measures they can take to enhance their sperm quality and protect their chances of having a child. These involve adopting a healthy lifestyle, which may include the following practices:
If you’re hoping to join the ranks of men like Pacino and De Niro and have kids later in life, don’t let the potential challenges deter you. Instead, take proactive steps now to secure your future family-building options. While adopting a healthy lifestyle can positively impact sperm health, it’s not the only measure to counteract the effects of aging on fertility. Sperm freezing allows you to preserve your sperm at its youngest and healthiest so you can have the flexibility needed when the time is right to start a family.
To start the process, order Legacy’s sperm analysis test, which examines all vital metrics of sperm health conveniently from home. Every order includes the option to freeze your sperm sample if the results find that your sperm is healthy and viable.
Learn more about sperm freezing with Legacy.
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