The results of recent studies convincingly prove that the age of the father greatly affects the health of the child in a not very positive way.
In 2017, a large-scale study was conducted in Iceland, during which scientists analyzed more than 1,500 triodes (as the sum of the genomes of the father, mother and child is called) and clarified the statistics on the appearance of mutations in newborns. It turned out that each newborn receives an average of 70 new mutations, which were not the parents. Most importantly, 80% of these mutations bring sperm, and only 20% of the egg. Thus, the child receives most of its mutational inheritance from the father.
Similar conclusions were drawn by the authors of a study published in the American journal The BMJ . It states that older fathers are more likely to be born prematurely. Moreover, it affects mothers as well: the older the partner, the higher the chance for a woman to have gestational diabetes (it occurs in women after 20 weeks of gestation, the average chance of occurrence is from 3 to 5%).
The study used data on 40 million children born in the country over the past nine years. It turned out that in children whose fathers were from 45 to 54 years old, compared with those born from young (25–34 years old), the risk of premature birth increased by 15%. In addition, 14% of them had an increased risk of getting into the intensive care unit for newborns, and 9% had a need for antibiotics.
Studies have also shown that the age of the father at the time of conception can be a real danger to the health of the child, i.e. when the paternal age exceeds 40 years, there may be a slight increase in the risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes or risks to children's health, including:
- Pregnancy loss. Advanced paternal age might be associated with a slightly higher risk of pregnancy loss before week 20 of pregnancy (miscarriage) or stillbirth.
- Rare birth defects. Older paternal age might slightly increase the risk of certain rare birth defects, including defects in the development of the skull, limbs and heart.
- Autism. Research shows a link between older paternal age and an increased frequency of autism spectrum disorder.
- Schizophrenia. Studies suggest an older paternal age might increase the risk of the severe mental disorder schizophrenia and might be associated with earlier onset of schizophrenia symptoms.
- Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Older paternal age might be associated with a slightly increased risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer that results in abnormal white blood cell production.
The numbers for the remaining diseases are even worse: the risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in these children is 13 times higher, bipolar disorder is 25 times higher. In addition, for children of older fathers revealed a double risk of substance abuse.
The fact is that men constantly produce sperm - this means that their cells are constantly dividing and updating. When a failure occurs in this process, it leads to genetic mutations. The older a person is, the more mutations accumulate and the more chances he has to pass on one of these mutations to a child. In addition, adult males may be more likely to experience epigenetic changes in DNA caused by lifestyle or the ecology of the environment than young men.
True, one of the authors of the study, Dr. Michael L. Eisenberg from the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Stanford University, was optimistic saying that for a single couple in which the father is much older than the mother, the chance of complications is not so high.
Resume: paternal age should be considered as one of the many risk factors associated with the health of children. Men have to admit that their “landing strip” for paternity is still limited. If you are over 40 years old and you are planning to have a baby or are worried about your reproductive health, better to consult a doctor.
Photo: frame from the movie “Man of Steel”
Based on The New York Times