DO MEN HAVE A BIOLOGICAL CLOCK?
The biggest myth about male fertility is that man ages and nothing changes! Many men believe that no matter what they do, everything will stay the same… but is that entirely true? In general, the accepted idea that men can conceive into their later years has been widely accepted as the norm. Evidence-based research has brought important information to light in regards to a males’ ticking clock.
When one hears the term biological clock the immediate assumption is that we are speaking about a woman’s issue. Specifically her ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. Adding the word male alongside biological clock, challenges commonly held perceptions and beliefs regarding a man’s abilities to reproduce.
Men are not immune to the effects of aging on the reproductive system but there is no exact consensus as to when men are considered to be of ‘advanced age’ reproductively. Some say the age is 40, while others say it’s not until 50. A point agreed upon is that his decline in fertility is gradual. A woman’s fertility starts to decline usually by 30, speeding up by the age of 35. The process is far less gradual for a woman than it is for a man.
Unlike women who will produce a finite number of eggs in her reproductive years, men continue to produce sperm every day of their lives. Studies pointed to three main difficulties in the older father-to-be. 1) The possibility of conception declines. 2) The older a man is the greater the likelihood of a pregnancy ending in a miscarriage. 3) Genetic abnormalities rise in number along with developmental disorders such as autism as well as psychological disorders like schizophrenia.
Therefore new research has begun to focus on the genetic blueprint material called DNA which is tightly packed within each sperm cell. Of interest is the germ cells which maintain sperm levels by continuously dividing. These cells contain chromosomal material, and by the age of 50, with each further germ cell division, the opportunity for something to go wrong, increases.
It is this genetic material, DNA, that is the cause for concern as a man ages. if 25% or more of the DNA within sperm cells is affected, a man’s sperm is considered to be too damaged for a healthy infant to be conceived. For the man who delays fatherhood, there seems to be an increase in genetic abnormalities in his offspring.
It is worthy to note at this point the correlation that exists between caffeine and alcohol consumption, as well as smoking, recreational drug use, and environmental pollutions when discussing DNA and the likelihood of conception. As with any aspect of our general state of health, better and cleaner choices create healthier outcomes.
This hot topic is generating much interest. Yes for the older man, his mechanisms for fertility are still in play, but with certain chromosomal changes being discovered that may affect the health of the children to come. Unraveling truths about the male biological clock is still new territory and only time will reveal all.