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Do Men Have a Biological Clock?

by Megan Sheckells

Photo by Ola Dapo from Pexels


This is a complicated question and one that has multiple meanings in terms of an answer. First off, every living thing has a biological clock. But do men share in having their biological clocks in terms of fertility and being able to start a family?


We’re all used to hearing about information regarding women being able to have babies. Women are told they will have more difficulty getting pregnant as they get older. And after a certain age, their pregnancies are considered higher risk. This is all concerning the female biological clock. But what about men? Do they have their unique biological clock to be aware of when it comes to fertility and starting a family?



According to a study conducted by Rutgers medical school, the answer is yes. The study considered information of forty years and offers a lot of insight into what we should all be more aware of in terms of the male biological clock.


The study abstract – which is published in Maturitas: An International Journal of Midlife Health and Beyond – states, “evidence does suggest a decrease in fertility and an increase in pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, intrauterine growth restriction, and preterm birth.” So, while this issue is less touched upon, it has been found that there are changes in not only fertility but potentially health-related factors for babies conceived by older paternal parents.



Patti Verbanas wrote in an article about the study, on the website for Rutgers University website, saying, “The study also found that older men struggled with fertility issues even if their partner was under 25.” So while it seems we often look to the woman when couple’s are having issues conceiving a child, it seems men are also capable of having fertility problems due to their biological clock, not just women.

The Rutger’s study on maturitas.org included a list of highlights on their abstract page, of noted findings in their study. The highlights are:

  • Advanced paternal age (APA) is increasing.

  • Pregnancies of men 45 years and over have increased risks of antenatal complications.

  • Infants of fathers of APA have an increased risk for adverse birth outcomes.

  • These offspring have increased psych, neurocognitive disorders, and childhood cancers.

  • Reproductive counseling and sperm banking may be an option in men who are planning to delay fatherhood.”

While this list of highlights may seem brief at first glance, each bullet point offers a lot of information about how male fertility works and potential risks or issues to be considered as men reach older adulthood.


The abstract wraps up the study’s overall mission in stating, “This review explores the data, with the intent that key counseling points, including the suggestion of sperm banking, can be highlighted when advising the midlife and older man who is considering paternity.” The information from this study just goes to show how important it is to take the time to learn about our bodies and consult medical professionals and scientifically backed sources when considering anything involving our health, conceiving children, or getting older in general.

Another article on the topic titled “Male Infertility is a Women’s Health Issue—Research and Clinical Evaluation of Male Infertility Is Needed” on National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health website, prompts this same idea. The author states, “This manuscript is intended to prompt discussion and investigation—it is not intended as a guideline—but is instead aimed to push the field of male infertility research forward.”


The article goes on to discuss the fact that men are just as likely to be infertile as women are, but that women are more likely to deal with the medical aspects of this. They state, “Due to the lack of direct treatments for men, many treatments for male infertility involve treating the woman; ideally, male infertility treatments would improve sperm quantity or quality, and possibly the ability to conceive naturally.” With this being said, their call for more research to be done on male fertility becomes even more important.


It’s vital to note that men and women both have biological clocks and the potential issues with fertility in their life spans. Unfortunately, it seems most solutions so far can be mostly focused on treating the female partner who will be carrying the baby. Bottom line, research shows that fertility is a two-way street, and both males and females can potentially be impacted fertility-wise as they age.


Sources:

Bachmann, Gloria et al. “Maternal, infant and childhood risks associated with advanced paternal age: The need for comprehensive counseling for men.” Maturitas, vol. 125, pp. 81-84, 01 Jul. 2019. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021. https://www.maturitas.org/article/S0378-5122(19)30134-3/fulltext#relatedArticles.


Turner, Katerina A., et al. “Male Infertility is a Women’s Health Issue—Research and Clinical Evaluation of Male Infertility Is Needed.” Cells vol. 9,4 990. 16 Apr. 2020, doi:10.3390/cells9040990. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7226946/.


Verbanas, Patty. “Older Fathers Put Health of Partners, Unborn Children at Risk, Rutgers Study Finds.” Rutgers Today, 13 May. 2019. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021. https://www.rutgers.edu/news/older-fathers-put-health-partners-unborn-children-risk-rutgers-study-finds#.XNlup9NKi4Q.

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