Your Questions Answered: Can a Man Father a Child At Any Age?

Newborn holding mothers thumb.

As a doctor, I get a lot of health-related questions both in my practice and email inbox.  Today, I found an interesting one from somebody who wanted to know: How old is too old for a man to father a child? Are there any health concerns for older fathers?  Read on for my advice. Dear Dr. Manny, Is it possible for a man to be too old to father a baby? After age 45 or 50, will the quality of my sperm drop? – Andrew Put simply, the answer is, no, men do not face the same age limits that women do in having a child. However, sperm quantity, mobility and quality all decline drastically after age 50, so that is definitely something to take into consideration. You may have heard about a few famous examples of men fathering children at advanced ages, like Charlie Chaplin, who had a child at age 73, and Tony Randall, who had two children in his late 70s  – and these two aren’t even the oldest fathers on record. In case you were wondering, that would be an Indian farmer named Nanu Ram Jogi, who had a child at age 90 in 2007. But, as I warned earlier, that doesn’t mean that fertility problems for men don’t exist. Male fertility decreases significantly every decade, especially after age 35. The sperm count in men aged 50-80 years old is typically about 75 percent of the count in men aged 20-50 years. Sperm mobility – or rather, how well sperm swim – also declines with age. Mobility tends to be best before age 25 and lowest after age 55. From age 35 to 55, sperm mobility has actually been shown to decrease by 54 percent, regardless of how often a man has sex. Most importantly, there are significant changes in quality of sperm after age 50. While women typically get all the blame regarding age and birth defects and men are given a “pass” by society, the truth is that older men are also much more likely to have a child with birth defects or other health problems. So far, studies have shown that the older the man, the greater likelihood there is of fathering a child with autism, schizophrenia, Down syndrome or other genetic diseases. There is also greater risk of the mother suffering a miscarriage. So, while men’s fertility doesn’t disappear at a certain age the way women’s fertility does, and while men don’t bear the same personal risks that women do as far as heart complications and premature delivery, that doesn’t mean that men don’t have to worry, even if they are medically able to impregnate a woman basically at any age. Finally, I have to say, it’s very tough to run after a toddler once you hit 60. E-mail me your health questions at [email protected].