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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soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Melissa

    It's surprising to read that older men have a higher propensity of having offspring that would be autistic or schizophrenic. Is this why there are more autistic children and not the vaccines they receive?

    July 9, 2008 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Berto

    Unfortunately this is true. I have been going to a fertility clinic with my wife to try to determine why my sperm count is so low. Even after having taken fertility blend for a couple of months. Turns out that I have an extra Y in my chromosomes which could result (40% chance) in my child being born with learning disabilities or severe anger issues. According to my doctor I am the second patient in his 12 + years of practicing that has been diagnosed with this problem. That's what happens when a person waits until later in life to have a child. Some men are lucky like Anthony Quinn, Larry King and Charlie Chaplin. I'm not, I have to live with the fact that I will never be able to carry on my fathers name. There is the option of sperm from a donor but I am not sure I even want to do that not knowing who or where it came from! It's disheartening almost makes me suicidal but I love life too much to do anything like that. I have just learned to accept my fate!

    July 9, 2008 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sharon

    Dear Dr Gupta, thank you so much. Should men also undergo testing for birth defects if they are older? Fascinating topic. Thanks so much.

    July 10, 2008 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bless you!

    Thank you for this study and information.

    Another example that sexism has been pervasive in our society, even from a medical standpoint.

    I have definitely heard this re autism as a possibility.

    July 10, 2008 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Teresa

    I'm surprised it took this long for anyone to actually realize men are easily half the problem. sheesh IF I were a man around 30ish these days or woman for that matter, and KNEW I wanted children "someday", I would opt for freezing my egg or sperm knowing they would be more viable now than 10 yrs. from now.

    Berto: oh, ye of little faith. Dont give up, dont ever give up:)

    July 10, 2008 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Leslie Feldman

    It is not surprising that older fathers have more children with downs, acrondroplasia, Huntingtonn's,cancers, autoimmune disorderss than men in there 20s . Sperm cells divide hundreds of time from the precursor cells and become more and more mutated. To the geneticicist James F. Crow fertile old men where the greateast mutational hazzard on earth, Autism and schizophrenia would not be so prevalent if older paternal age wasn't often the origin of the genetic mistakes.

    July 10, 2008 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Eileen

    I wouldnt put much salt to this study...Its just one study..Talk to me when they have replicated the study for several years..

    July 10, 2008 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Alex

    Oddly, this makes sense. My brother in law was born when his dad was in his fifties. He has some mental issues (paranoia, anger issues). Now, that could be contributed to family genes, though none of the other children have the same problems.

    July 10, 2008 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Helen Eschenbacher

    In reply to Berto: there are many children who would love to be adopted and they would carry on the "family name".

    Look into caring and adopting a child in your country.

    July 10, 2008 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Clark CLydestone

    I'm always amused at how researchers pontificate about aging and what you can and should not do.
    My father married at 40 had my youngest brother at 59 and was 17 years older then my mother. My grand uncle was 69 when he had his youngest daughter and people clucked about how he would never see her grow up. She was 32 at his funeral and gave her father's eulogy. He was 24 years older then my grandaunt. My grandfather too, was 19 years older then grandma and died 2years after she did and she was in her early 70's.
    Myself, I'm in my 60's my wife is 27 years younger we have a set of twins born on my 60th year.
    Now, lets talk about what accelerates aging. POOR NUTRITION.
    Lack of DAILY FRESH FRUITS and VEGATABLES. And of course USDA meat is dangerous and its not for NOTHING that Europe does not allow the US to import meat. South Korea too has seen the light and these countries are privy to alot of information we're denied in the US. Want to live longer stay away from commercial meat in the stores, McDonalds, Burger King, restaurants etc. You are what those animals eat and stock yards are in business for profit along with the meat processing plants and retailers. To get those animals to market faster requires alot of hormones, antibiotics and more.
    After all its only your health and Oh, probably premature death.
    Anomalies these researchers never seem to think about is why there are such unusual people that easily live past 100 and remain young or younger into thier 90's.
    My father was doing very well until my siblings hired a caretaker that knew nothing about nutrition. From active, bright, vigorous to dead in two years. Her choice of cooking! He died at 98 and I believe would have lived much longer but for her stupididity in preparing food. Presently the woman is in her 50's an acts like someone in her late 70s.
    WOW............NUTRITION, NUTRITION, NUTRITION! Its what renews your body's cellular structure. The garbage we eat as youngsters won't do once passing 40.
    Forget family longevity,......YOU can live longer and healthier if you watch what you eat. NO body cares unless you do! Every time you fudge it counts.
    May you live long.......enjoy every meal,.........and your vigor out last the cancer that besets those who imagine and even think that this deadly disease strikes randomly out of the blue. NO, NO, NO, you and I chose disease like cancer by how and what we eat. It doesn't happen all at once, but it happens and catches up overwhelming our bodies defenses. Be kind to yourself, feed more then your stomach. Simple carbohydrates may make you feel like you've eaten, but unless you eat nutritiously, your eyes, skin, hair, brain, vital organs are left without nutrition because simple carbohydrates does not feed them.

    July 11, 2008 at 00:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Israel

    I read somewhere that obesity leads to infertility too. So old, fat men have a hard time in conceiving? I guess thats if fat men get to live to be old.

    July 11, 2008 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Southernlade

    Women can adjust to the lower level of hormones better than men I believe, as they age...Especially after 55 or 60...Some men think taking testosterone shots really boost their libido along with Viagra...It is dangerous over a long period of time to be taking shots for very long.
    What do others think about think about his?

    July 11, 2008 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Stacey

    Berto – My heart goes out to you. My husband has fertlity issues as well. A blockage actually. We tried in vitro a few times to no avail. People always say never give up or try adoption but they are not the ones in our shoes so it is so easy for them to pass judgement. I like you have settled on that this is our fate as disappointing as it may be.

    July 11, 2008 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. yana

    I am glad you wrote this report. I am 39 and my husband is 47. We have just suffered a misscarraige that could have been a partial molar pregnacy. Even though this is the third misscarriage, the doctor said there was no possibility that my husband could be contributing to the problem. (This could be because we have eight children already.) It is good to know they are making progess in discovering the causes of autism and other birth defects, the risk that we are taking, and esspecailly that all the burden does not rest on the shoulders' of the women.

    July 17, 2008 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ed Puntin

    Of course it shouldn't surprise anyone that with age come problems. What could be more natural? Berto, as a father of twins let me add that there are a lot of infants in the world who could use a loving father. They may not have your dads blood, but they'll have what makes you and him unique and thats a lot more important a trait to pass on.

    July 17, 2008 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Claire

    Ok, am I the first to say DUH?!!

    Hello, of course old men have old sperm! Even domestic animals used for breeding over a certain age (different for diff. species-I think it is 9 or 10 for AKC dogs) are usually required to undergo DNA testing to prove the offspring is theirs and not a younger "switch hitter" in place of a popular older sire.

    Maybe some of the baby conception failure/blame that is so prevalent can finally be lifted from women! How is it that if a child is talented it is the father's genes and if there is a problem it is the mother!

    Heritable traits are always 50:50, mother:father–I can't believe people are even surprised that all "babymakers" age with the person, OY VEY

    July 18, 2008 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Lina

    Clark-You make some good points, except the study was from FRANCE not the USA.

    My husband is 60 and very healthy. I'm the problem with our fertility (eggs not viable). We were thinking about using donor eggs, but the study is giving us pause.

    July 19, 2008 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Esther Gelb

    Just by observing the human body we see that girls start their menstrual cycle at around the age of 12 which means that their bodies were designed to have a baby starting at that age. Men reach their sexual height when they are still in their early 20's . What I get out of that is that we were meant to have babies and a young age. It get's dangerous to play with what was desinged so perfectly. Older eggs and older sperm can create a big problem for childeren who were conceived in older adults. People should freeze sperm and eggs if they are not planning to have a baby before the age of 30 for the sake of the person that they will bring into the world.

    July 29, 2008 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. tim schwab

    Yes i am a 23 year male. I was wondering if growth shots would be benefiicial for me. My dad is 6 foot 1 and my brother is 6foot 3 i have been 5foot9 for many years. can someone give me advice. thank you

    February 8, 2010 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Alfie Davies

    due to modern advance in medicine, infertility could be a thing of the past.:–

    June 30, 2010 at 06:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Samuel Hernandez

    fertility clinics are on the rise these days because people still want to have kids even if they are already old;::

    July 19, 2010 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Kevin Mitchell

    fertility clinics are on the rise these days because people still want to have kids even if they are already old**~

    July 19, 2010 at 04:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Alisha Cox

    infertility is not really a big problem because of advances in health and medicine. `-,

    July 23, 2010 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Evelyn Ahmed

    infertility could be a thing of the past with our modern day stem cell technology,",

    September 9, 2010 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Titanium Earrings :

    fertility clinics are getting more and more clients these days coz people are getting married at older age..:

    October 22, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Pest Repeller :

    infertility would be less of a problem today compared to say 10 or 20 years ago'~;

    October 24, 2010 at 06:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Locket Necklace

    fertility clinics these days are very advanced and of course this can only mean higher success rates on birth ,::

    December 13, 2010 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Outdoor Rugs

    well, i would say that infertility can be a thing of the past because of modern advancements in medicine ';*

    December 16, 2010 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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