July 9th, 2008
11:18 AM ET

Age may affect men's fertility too

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Chief Medical Correspondent


Sure enough, a lot has been made of women and their biological clocks. That ominous ticking seems to be heard by most women as they get into their mid-30s and 40s. On the other hand, men have thought themselves relatively immune to the ravages of time, at least when it came to their ability to conceive. Certainly stories of Tony Randall fathering babies in his 70s were widely circulated. At the same time, we are always reminded that 1/3 of women over the age of 35 had trouble getting pregnant; it went up to ½ when the woman was over 40. Incidentally, infertility is defined as not being able to conceive a baby after a full year of unprotected sex.


Just this week, French researchers tell us, “Not so fast.”  They looked at 12,000 couples being treated for trouble with fertility. They found most times, the couples were being treated because of the man’s infertility.  They also found miscarriage rates more than doubled when the man was in his mid 40s compared with those younger than 30. It could be DNA damage to sperm that accumulates over time, the quality of the sperm, and maybe lower levels of testosterone that are causing the trouble. (watch video)


Even more interesting, as much as older mothers are more likely to have a child with Down syndrome, recent research has shown older men are more likely to father a child with autism and schizophrenia.


So, does this surprise you? When a couple is having trouble getting pregnant, how often do you think they investigate the father-to-be as the cause?


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.