Women are under a lot of pressure to have kids by a certain age. We're constantly reminded that our so-called biological clock is just ticking away. But a new paper suggests that women shouldn't be the only ones worrying about starting a family before their clock runs out.
According to a new review of previous research, a man's age may influence his fertility, the well-being of his partner during pregnancy, and the long-term health of his children. The authors of the paper, which was published in the journal Maturitas, say more men might want to consider freezing their sperm if they want to have kids later than 35.
What are the health risks of older paternal age?
The paper, which reviewed existing research on older fathers, suggests that pregnant women who have a child with a man older than 45 have an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes and preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy or delivery).
As far as concerns for the baby, research suggests that older paternal age may increase the risk of premature and low-weight births, as well as birth defects such as congenital heart disease and cleft palate. Children of older fathers may also have a higher risk of being diagnosed with childhood cancers, psychiatric and cognitive disorders, and autism.
The researchers say these increased risks may be the result of lower testosterone levels, an accumulation of genetic mutations in sperm cells, or an overall decline in sperm count and quality, though more research is needed to know for sure. "Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," co-author Gloria Bachmann, MD, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said in a press release.
The authors note that many of the risks mentioned above are also associated with older mothers—but unlike women, men aren't usually warned by their doctors (or by society as a whole) of the potential risks that come with fatherhood at an advanced age.
“As a society, perhaps men should be encouraged to bank sperm before their 35th or, at least, their 45th birthday,” the authors wrote in their paper, “to decrease the increased risks on maternal and fetal and child health which have been shown to occur as a result of aging sperm.”
How much does it cost to freeze sperm?
Unfortunately, most health insurance plans don't cover the cost of freezing sperm. If you or your partner is considering the procedure, call your insurance company before scheduling an appointment so that you’re clear on their policies. However, many sperm banks do offer payment plans to make it more affordable.
Cost varies between facilities, and also depends on how many samples you store and how long you store them. Initial analysis and the first year of storage can cost as low as $250 or as high as $1,300. Additional years will cost more.
Men who are interested in freezing their sperm can can find a sperm bank in their area by searching online or asking their doctor. Typically, they will be asked to produce a semen sample at the sperm bank or at a laboratory, though some sperm banks do offer kits that can be used at home.
The semen sample is then be analyzed in a lab, and as long as the sample contains live sperm cells, it can be frozen and stored. Most sperm can be stored for more than 20 years.
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