Older fathers put unborn children, partners at risk

The risks of having children at an advanced age should be made known and more counseling should be provided to men who want to have children later in life, to decrease the potential risks to their partners and children, studies have found.

One study, released by the National Taiwan University College of Public Health this year, analyzed 1,600 families of children diagnosed with psychoses and concluded that, genetics aside, the risk of children exhibiting signs of psychosis increases by 30 percent for every 10 years that their mothers are past “prime” childbirth age — usually 35 years old.

Citing Ministry of the Interior statistics from last year showing the average age of men and women when they have their first child — 34.5 and 23 respectively — National Taiwan University Hospital gynecologist Yang Yu-shih (楊友仕) said that issues with advanced paternal age must be noted.

While men do not have obvious difficulties producing children, sperm quality and activity decreases as a man becomes older, Yang said.

With advancements in assisted reproduction, many would-be parents are turning to such methods, Yang said, adding that while the process helps select healthy sperm and eggs, and filters most known hereditary diseases, it cannot help detect whether there are genetic abnormalities.

Parents of babies produced by such methods should make regular clinic or hospital visits for pregnancy checkups, Yang said, adding that men who plan to have children later in life should consider “saving” their sperm at a sperm bank.

A paper submitted to the journal Maturitas by Rutgers University’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey said that advanced paternal age is as prevalent as advanced maternal age, suggesting a need for men to be counseled on the issue.

The number of children born to fathers older than 45 has risen 10 percent in the US over the past 40 years, the paper said.

Men 45 and older can experience decreased fertility and their partners risk increased pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes, intrauterine growth restriction and preterm birth, it said.

“Additionally, the offspring of fathers of [advanced paternal age] have increased risks of chromosomal and non-chromosomal birth defects, and an increased incidence of childhood autism and cancers,” the paper’s abstract reads.

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