New research shows it's not just women who shouldn't delay parenthood

Older dads could see their babies suffer more health risks at birth [Photo: Getty]
Older dads could see their babies suffer more health risks at birth [Photo: Getty]

Delaying fatherhood until later in life could have a negative effect on both children and mothers, new research has revealed.

Women are constantly being reminded about their biological clocks and the risks of being an older or geriatric mother (women giving birth over the age of 37). For the most part, however, men aren’t being given the same warnings.

But a new study, published in the BMJ suggests that men, who don’t have children until later, could also be subject to health risks.

The research reveals that babies born to older fathers could be more susceptible to health problems including a risk of being born prematurely, having a low birth weight, and requiring healthcare support after delivery such as assisted ventilation, admission to neonatal intensive care, or antibiotics.

What’s more, women who have children with older men may have increased health risks too, particularly gestational diabetes.

For the study researchers analysed more than 40 million live births between 2007 and 2016 in the US.

They sorted the fathers of these babies into five age groups — younger than 25, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and older than 55 — and looked at measures of infant health within each of these categories.

Having taken mother’s age, parents’ health and demographic information into account, the researchers noticed an association between paternal age and likelihood of both child and maternal health problems.

The results revealed that children of fathers aged 45 years or more were born 0.12 weeks earlier and had a 14% higher risk of being premature (less than 37 weeks) compared to those whose fathers were aged 25 to 34 years.

These children were also born 20.2g lighter and had a 14% higher risk of low birth weight (less than 2500g) than infants born to younger fathers.

They also had a 14% higher risk of being admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit and an 18 per cent higher risk of having seizures, compared to infants with fathers aged 25 to 34 years.

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.

Dads over 45 have a slightly greater risk of their children being born premature or suffering problems after birth [Photo: Getty]
Dads over 45 have a slightly greater risk of their children being born premature or suffering problems after birth [Photo: Getty]

The team were keen to point out that as the study was observational, no firm conclusions could be drawn about cause and effect.

They also stressed that the overall risk of the potential negative effects on mother and baby were still incredibly low.

But they do believe that the new research highlights the importance of taking a dad-to-be’s age into consideration.

“A significant number of these negative birth outcomes were estimated to be prevented if older fathers had elected to have children before the age of 45 years,” study authors included.

“The risks associated with advancing paternal age should be included in discussions regarding family planning and reproductive counselling.”

The study results follows more research released last year which revealed that men should also be more aware of their ticking biological clock.

Research, by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, found that age can have a significant impact on a couple’s baby-making chances, and contrary to popular belief male fertility, like their female counterparts, also has a shelf life.

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