Women conceiving with men over 35 years of age are at far greater risk of health problems, a 10 year study by Stanford University has revealed.
The decade long study revealed a number of increased health risks posed by fathers over 35 – risks that increase exponentially as the man ages.
ABS data shows that many couples are now choosing to have children at an older age, with the median age of first time mothers growing from 29.2 years in 1996 to 31.2 years in 2016, and the median age of first time fathers growing from 30.6 to 33.9 years.
However, Stanford’s research shows that this rising parental age poses a number of concerns for the health of both the infant and the mother.
The data, taken from over 40 million US pregnancies over the course of a decade, suggests that fathers over 35 cause higher chances of the infant suffering from low-birth weight, seizures and congenital diseases, and increases the risk of diabetes developing in the mother.
The chance of these health concerns developing becomes greater with each year the father ages, with an average of 2 new DNA mutations developing in a man’s sperm each year after the age of 35.
The babies of men over the age of 45 were shown to have a 14% higher likelihood of being admitted into neonatal intensive care, 18% higher likelihood of suffering from seizures, and a 14% higher likelihood of being born premature, when compared to infants born to fathers between the ages of 25 and 34.
The chance of a child needing neonatal intensive care grew by 28% when the father was over the age of 50.
The study shows that infant health is just as affected by paternal factors as they are by the health status of the mother.
“We tend to look at maternal factors in evaluating associated birth risks, but this study shows that having a healthy baby is a team sport, and the father’s age contributes to the baby’s health, too,” said MD Michael Eisenberg, Stanford’s associate professor of urology.
The study showed that the biggest health risk older fathers posed to pregnant women was the risk of the mother developing gestational diabetes.
When compared with fathers between the ages of 25 and 34, fathers over the age of 45 caused their partners to be 28% more likely to develop diabetes during their pregnancy.
Eisenburg’s studies also show that the number of older fathers is on the rise, with a 2017 study showed that the number of infants born in the US to men over the age of 40 has grown from 4% to 10% over the past four decades.
This means that these health risks caused by paternal age are going to become an increasingly prevalent issue in the coming years.
Stanford’s study will hopefully deepen parents’ and conceiving couples’ understanding of the importance of paternal health and encourage further studies into the risks posed by older parents.