Fertility clock ticks for men, too
Julia Medew March 26, 2012
MEN are being urged to pay more attention to their biological clocks as research shows those aged over 40 are at higher risk of having a child with autism and birth defects.
As the average age of Australian fathers continues to increase, reproductive health experts are calling for men to learn more about their fertility and the risks of older fatherhood.
Dr Karin Hammarberg, a researcher with the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), said that while most children are born healthy, large studies of parental age were starting to show higher rates of birth defects and autism in children born to men over 40.
A recent review of paternal age published in the Asian Journal of Andrology said an American study of 132,000 men found children of those over 45 were nearly six times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder compared to children born to men under 30.
The review also pointed to a Dutch study of 60,000 births which found children born to men over 40 were three times more likely to have autism and a US study of 5 million births which showed men over 50 had a 15 per cent higher chance of having a baby with birth defects including congenital heart disease and cleft palates.
Dr Hammarberg said research also showed men over 40 had much more trouble getting a woman pregnant and the rate of miscarriage doubled for women when their partner was over 45. The average time to pregnancy for men under 25 is just over 4.5 months but nearly two years for men over 40.
"Fertility talk is always directed at women and somehow men look like innocent bystanders," she said.
"Men really need to know that their own age and health will affect their fertility, too."
Between 1990 and 2010, the median age of Australian fathers increased from 31 to 34 while more men in their late 50s and early 60s were becoming fathers. In 2010, 777 men aged 55 to 59 fathered a child, up from 674 in 2004 and 516 in 2000. The number of men in their 60s having babies has also increased from 226 in 2000 to 408 in 2010.
The Fertility Coalition, made up of VARTA, Andrology Australia, Jean Hailes for Women's Health and the Robinson Institute, will launch a website today to teach Australians about fertility. See yourfertility.org.au