Health
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Men's reproductive function can be damaged if they have children after 40

According to a new research, which shows that male fertility goes into decline after the age of 40, there is biological clock not only in women but also in men. That’s why it is very important for couples to decide when to start a family.

Conversations about when to start having children are not, broadly speaking, a male speciality. Conversations initiated by men about the effect of age on male fertility may be even more of a rarity.

This comfortable state of affairs for men may now be at an end. This week, writing in the journal Fertility and Sterility, a French scientist, Elise de La Rochebrochard, who led a recent mass study of French pregnancies, concluded that a father aged over 40 "is a key risk factor for reproduction". For women under 30, a male partner aged 40 or over reduced their chances of conceiving by a quarter; for women between 35 and 37, a partner over 40 reduced conception to a one-in-three possibility.

The French findings feel boldly counter-intuitive, in the light of decades of newspaper articles warning women, often in the most finger-pointing and sensationalist terms, about the perils of delaying having children. Few women in their 30s can be unaware of the notions that if they are too busy building a career, or too materialistic or selfish or preoccupied to get pregnant before the biological deadline of their early 40s, then they'll have no family. Midlife infertility, essentially, is seen as a female problem.

In fact, over the past five years similar investigations in Britain and the United States have anticipated the French findings, and have also found late fatherhood to be riskier than traditionally assumed. One study found would-be fathers over 40 half as likely to make their partners pregnant as men under 25; another found fathers over 50 quadrupling the likelihood of having a child with Down's Syndrome.

If anyone notices, there are very large implications for the rhythm of male lives and the balance of power between men and women. "This research will be a relief to a lot of women who are used to a culture where they carry the responsibility for fertility," says the author and journalist Melissa Benn, who has written extensively about the politics of motherhood. "If men were to take this information seriously, it could help to synchronise male and female desires and bodily needs."

But men could take some persuading about their reproductive frailties. It has long been known to medical professionals, says Richard Kennedy, spokesman for the British Fertility Society, that across all relevant age groups, "the man is the leading cause of fertility problems. Yet still there is an attitude from men that, 'It can't be me that's the problem.'" It is women who buy ovulation predictor kits, take their temperature in the mornings and have tests to discover how many eggs they have left. By contrast, says Kennedy, public and media attitudes to male ageing and fertility remain unconcerned.

That men have a lower life expectancy than women has always been a flaw in the argument that the former need worry less than the latter about when to have a family. The new discoveries about male fertility may challenge the male confidence - you could say complacency - that papered over this flaw. "Intimations of mortality are good for all of us, not just for reproducing but for living," says Benn. "The biological clock has always been that early nudge for women. Now men are getting one too." O'Sullivan suggests one possible social implication for middle-aged men: "A woman who is 35 and thinking about her biological clock may look at a man of 50 and think, 'I have to look for someone younger.'"

Defying nature: famous old fathers

Rod Stewart
Oh, it's nice to see a man so happily in touch with his paternal side - though given that Stewart's baby son Alastair (with bra model Penny Lancaster) is his seventh, he has had a while to get used to fatherhood. The former mullet-haired rocker has admited that he was "too busy touring and being a drunk rock- 'n'roller" when some of his older children were born, but he's thrown himself into it this time round. "I think the older you get, the more you can appreciate that you can still bring another life into this world," he said. Such is his dedication, that he reportedly got into the birthing pool during Alastair's birth.

Julio Iglesias Sr
The gynaecologist father of Julio fathered Jamie when he was 89 after his 40-year-old wife underwent fertility treatment. "At my age, a child is marvellous," he declared. "If people say I just did it for my wife, I don't take it as an insult, but the truth is I wanted it just as much as her." Julio Iglesias Sr passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest days after he announced he was to become a father for the fourth time at 90. "My wife wanted it and I owed it to her," he explained. "It was an act of generosity towards her. I need her so much that I said to her, 'Here, this is what you wanted for when I am gone.'"

John Simpson
He has liberated Kabul, received a punch in the stomach from Harold Wilson and been shot in friendly fire while in Iraq, but in January this year, the BBC's 61-year-old world affairs editor embarked on what some saw as his bravest challenge yet, when his second wife Dee gave birth to their first (and Simpsons' third) child, Ranulph. "No doubt people will be saying how disgusting it is that a man in his 60s should be fathering a child," he said at the time. "Yet there will be all sorts of advantages to counter balance the problems of age ... I can now give him a more rounded person, less spiky [and] much calmer."

Eric Clapton
"I still regard music as my main calling. I would never regard myself as a father first." Perhaps not the kind of thing a doting dad should say out loud, let alone to a national newspaper, but that's what Clapton told the Times recently, when discussing life with toddlers. Though Clapton has been a dad before - to Conor, who, aged four, fell to his death in 1991 from a 53rdfloor window; and Ruth, born in 1985 - it is only in the past five years, when his wife Melia had Sophie Bell, Ella May and Julie Rose, that he has embraced full-time fatherhood. That's full-time in the rockular sense: Melia allows him two days off a week, as long as he's home for tea.

Charlie Chaplin
Perhaps the most famous of all elderly fathers, Chaplin was 73 when his youngest son, Christopher, was born. Legendarily fertile, Chaplin had a total of 11 children and was married four times. He is a long way off being the world's oldest father, however: that honour is thought to belong to the now deceased Les Colley, who became a father at 92, having married his Fijian bride, whom he met through a dating agency, a year earlier. Colley died in 1998 after a brief bout of pneumonia, but his son, Oswald, lives on.

Michael Douglas
There is a 23-year age gap between Douglas 's first child, Cameron, and his second, Dylan, who was born in 2000 to his second wife Catherine Zeta-Jones. Waiting for the arrival of Carys , now three, Douglas claimed to be preparing himself mentally and physically. "I've got more motivation to stay in shape than I do with my movies," he exclaimed. "I'll be dealing with the bad backs - and everything else - on a regular basis." But if there is any truth in the rumours of multiple facelifts, Douglas is feeling the pressure to match up to younger dads at the school gate.

Source: The Guardian

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