When it comes to starting families later in life, new research is showing that men have some things to take into account, too. According to a new study, older dads may be linked to increased birth risks. You might be thinking that "older" refers to someone retirement age or up but, in this case, the key age is 35.
Most of the time, when discussing having families later in life, attention remains focused on women. Doctors have used the term "geriatric pregnancy" to describe pregnancies in women over 35, although they now typically use the term "advanced maternal age".
No one is advocating that attention isn't paid to women or how both themselves and their children will be impacted by advanced maternal age pregnancies. However, this hyper-focus on women's bodies can sometimes ignore that men play a role, too, and so they can also factor in when it comes to potential risk.
As noted by the Mayo Clinic, the amount of research regarding advanced paternal age is currently small and results have been a bit of a mixed bag. Luckily, more and more studies are being done to fully understand the impacts of advanced paternal age. The recent results of researchers from Stanford University are an interesting addition to the field.
For their study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers at Stanford examined health records for documented live births in the United States between 2007 and 2016, which added up to more than 40 million babies.
"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," Dr. Michael Eissenberg, MD, an associate professor of urology, said, as Science Daily noted.
The records revealed that babies born to fathers of an advanced paternal age (roughly equating to older than 35) were at higher risk for adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weights, seizures, and lower Apgar scores, according to the study's abstract.
Babies whose fathers were aged 45 or over had a 14 percent higher risk of premature birth, low birth weight, or being admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit after they were born, according to The Guardian.
Essentially, researchers found that the greater a father's age, then the greater the risk. However, researchers still say the risk factor is relatively low.
Learning more about advanced parental age in general is becoming important, as people are having kids later in life. In 2016, there were more women in their early 30s having babies than younger moms for the first time since data has initially become available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Similarly, men are now fathering children later than before. In 2017, a study that found nearly 10 percent of infants are born to fathers over the age of 40. Four decades ago, that number was only at around 4 percent.
Researchers plan to conduct more studies to fully understand the relationship between father's age and birth outcomes.
"Having a better understanding of the father's biological role will be obviously important for the offspring, but also potentially for the mother," Eissenberg said, according to Science Daily.
For now, it's still a bit unclear what the exact effect advanced paternal age might have on your baby, but looping your doctor in and knowing that there may, in fact, be some things for which your baby is more at risk, is important.