Family planning includes not just determining how many kids to have, but also when to have them. You may decide to delay starting your family because you want to go back to school. Maybe you want to be more established in your career before you have kids. You might want to be a homeowner before you bring home a baby. Or maybe you just want to be debt-free before piling on hospital bills associated with pregnancy and birth. Whatever the case may be, before you decide to say “Not right now,” there are a few things you should consider.
Male Fertility Declines with Age
You probably know that your wife’s fertility declines as she grows older and eventually goes through menopause. But she’s not the only one with a biological clock. One study found that a man’s ability to reproduce declines sharply after the age of 41. According to researchers, fertility declines at a rate of 7% for each year after 41, with an even steeper rate of decline after the age of 45. In fact, in this short period, the rate of successful pregnancy drops from 60% (age 41) to just 35% (age 45)1. So if you wait until you are 45 to start your family, you may not like your chances.
Age Increases the Chance of Birth Defects
Not only is the chance of pregnancy reduced by age, but a father’s age can also introduce other complications. Studies have shown that older men are at higher risk to father children with birth defects and genetic abnormalities. One study found that, when both parents of a child with Down syndrome were over 35, the father’s age “played a significant role” in the child’s genetic abnormality. When the mother was over 40, the incidence of Down syndrome related to sperm was about 50%2.
Ditto schizophrenia. In one study, researchers concluded that “men between the ages of 45 to 49 were twice as likely to have children with schizophrenia as were men 25 and younger.” But for men over 50, the risk was three times as high2.
You Can Grow Old While Your Sperm Stays Young
Both of these concerns are related to the age of a man’s sperm, but not necessarily the man himself. You can keep your sperm young while you continue to mature toward your pre-family goals. Sperm banking allows you to cryopreserve your semen for later use. If you want a family, but not right now, you might consider banking your sperm. That way you can plan your family on your timetable while avoiding the complications that accompany the ticking of your biological clock.
1. Macrae, F. (2011, October 20). The male biological clock: After 41 your chances of becoming a father ‘declines rapidly’. Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2051041/MALE-biological-clock-After-41-chance-father-declines-rapidly.html
2. Heubeck, E. Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD. Age raises infertility risk in men, too. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/features/age-raises-infertility-risk-in-men-too0