While menopause limits a woman’s ability to conceive later in life, many men of advanced age continue to have the option to father a child due to continued sperm production. Despite frequent male fertility challenges, paternal age at time of conception has been steadily increasing over several decades, and very often, the popular culture media reports on male celebrities having children in their 70s or later. However, this may not be the case for most men, but solutions to fertility problems exist.
Semen volume, sperm motility (how fast sperm swim), sperm morphology (normal shaped sperm) all decline with age and can negatively affect natural conception and/or success rates with assisted reproduction. Erectile function also declines with age, making conception attempts difficult. Factors contributing to this decline include increased weight, decreased muscle mass, decreased sexual activity, medication side effects and other medical conditions. Testosterone is often used by older men to improve sexual function but usually results in decreased sperm production and should not be used in men trying to conceive.
In male fertility challenges, paternal age can also lead to adverse effects in offspring. Certain muscular disorders and congenital disorders such as cleft palate and stillbirths are associated with increased paternal age. Offspring of men 40 years or older are also more likely to be affected by Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, compared to offspring of younger men.
Older males seeking paternity should undergo general age-related health screening including colonoscopy, prostate evaluation and blood pressure and cholesterol screening. Additionally, these men should be advised on the potential decline in sperm quantity and quality and potential impact on offspring. Psychosocial concerns should also be considered such as the ability of older parents to meet the physical and emotional demand of parenting.
To learn more about screening for risks to male fertility, schedule a free phone consult with Dr. Ekpo, a fetility doctor in San Francisco, by clicking the button below.