The female “biological clock,” ticking on as a woman ages and her fertility steadily declines, is a symbol deeply rooted in popular culture. Everyone knows that after a certain age, it becomes harder, if not impossible, for a woman to get pregnant and have a genetically healthy baby, so many women feel pressure to get married, settle down, and have children before it is “too late.”
But do men also have to worry about their own biological clocks?
Recent studies have shown that men, too, should think twice before postponing fatherhood. While male fertility does not necessarily have an expiration date, it certainly declines with age, dropping by 38 percent between the ages of 30 and 50, according to one study published in Scientific American. Not only does semen volume and sperm motility decrease on a yearly basis, but the genetic quality of sperm actually declines as well. Although sperm is considered easy to regenerate, the likelihood of unwanted genetic mutations increases with each sperm regeneration cycle. This may explain the recently observed associations between advanced paternal age and genetic disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, and Down syndrome, and other risks that are typically attributed only to the mother’s age. Thus, fathering healthy children at an advanced age may not be as easy as usually considered. Perhaps the term “grandfather clock” has a much more literal biological meaning than ever before considered – men who aspire to be grandfathers, or fathers for that matter, may want to consider having children before the biological clock strikes noon.