BMJ: Babies of older fathers have more health problems

Leslie Hanson
November 3, 2018

But today's study by Stanford University, which looked at 40 million births between 2007 and 2016, is the first major piece of long-term research to look at older fathers.

"We tend to look at maternal factors in evaluating associated birth risks, but this study shows that having a healthy baby is a team sport, and the father's age contributes to the baby's health, too", said Eisenberg. It is widely believed that aging does not carry the same risks for men.

Babies born to older fathers are more likely to be premature and to need intensive care treatment, an extensive study has found. For men over 50, the percentage has gone up from 0.5 to almost one. "But that's a relative increase". Because your chance of winning the lottery started very small, it's still unlikely that you're going to win the lottery. It's an extreme example, but the concept can be applied to how you think about these increased birth risks.

Instead, Eisenberg sees the findings as informational ammunition for people planning a family and hopes that they will serve to educate the public and health officials. Resident physician Yash Khandwala, MD, is the lead author. However, they suggest that changes in the sperm of older fathers could explain the results.

The average age of fatherhood has been steadily rising in wealthy nations, as has the percentage of fathers above 45 or 55.

The researchers add that their findings emphasise the need to further investigate the public health implications of rising paternal age within the USA and other developed countries.

The insights come from a retrospective study that tracked a decade of data on live births and a variety of infant health parameters in the United States.


Women carrying the child of a man aged 55 years or older have a 34 per cent higher odds of gestational diabetes.

They were also born on average 0.12 weeks earlier and were 14% more likely to be premature than those born to younger fathers, the study found. Their risk of being admitted to neonatal intensive care was also 14% greater and their risk of having seizures was 18% greater.

"What was really surprising was that there seemed to be an association between advanced paternal age and the chance that the mother would develop diabetes during pregnancy", said Eisenberg.

Women who have children with men older than 45 were also 28% more likely to develop gestational diabetes, compared to women with partners ages 25 to 34, the paper says. The mechanism may be through the placenta, in that if it hasn't developed perfectly, it could affect child or mother.

"We discovered that we may no longer be able to ignore the potential impact that older fathers have on their offspring", Eisendberg said.

The researchers stress that the absolute risks remain low, but say their findings emphasise the importance of including men in preconception care-and the need to further investigate the public health implications of rising paternal age within the USA and other developed countries.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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