Women know that menopause can put a “sell by” date on getting pregnant, but common wisdom says that men retain much of their fertility well into old age. That common wisdom is wrong.
In an article for the Washington Post, Ana Swanson explains just what that means. Men can certainly keep on making sperm until they shuffle off this mortal coil, and it’s possible for them to father children when they’re in their 60s and 70s. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. From the article:
Studies indicate that a man’s age can affect his fertility in three main ways. The older the father, the harder it may be for a couple to conceive a baby. Older fathers are also more likely to see pregnancies result in miscarriages. And the older age of the father can potentially trigger health problems in a child, too.
Swanson lays out what’s known about how male fertility declines with age–drops in testosterone secretion affects sperm production, and years of steady cell division mean that mutations accumulate in the sperm-making cells of the testes. There may be other factors we don’t know anything about yet: it turns out that unlike other health research, research on male reproductive health lags behind research on females.
This post originally appeared on Throb, Gizmodo's blog for all things sex