Male Fertility – is your body clock ticking?
It is an accepted fact that women after the age of 35, due to physiological changes, may have difficulty with conception and pregnancy. The biological clock is explained as “an innate mechanism that controls the physiological activities of an organism” from a group of neurons located in the hypothalamus in the brain. And this “body clock” is sometimes responsible for problems with fertility.
However, did you know that males also have a biological clock? Their advancing age can also affect fertility, pregnancy and the health of children.
A study conducted over 40 years of research on the effect of parental age states that there is no clearly accepted definition of when advanced paternal age begins. However, it usually ranges from 35 to 45 years.
Since women are born with a limited reserve of eggs, their chances of falling pregnant after they reach the age of 40+ are reduced, due to changes in the oocyte cycle. Men, on the other hand, can produce sperm every day. However, spermatogenesis (the complete cycle of sperm production and maturation) takes about 64 – 74 days.
Although men produce sperm throughout their lives, their reproductive health becomes less efficient and slows down with age, resulting in lower sperm quality. These changes, besides reducing fertility, can have an effect on the pregnancy and health of the baby. Research has shown that, even if the female partner is young and healthy, if the male is advanced in age, pregnancy complications such as miscarriages, gestational diabetes, premature birth and preeclampsia can occur.
As men increase in age, there is a natural decline in the amount of testosterone that is produced. Also poorer semen quality and sperm degradation occur. It has also been shown that there is increased Sperm DNA fragmentation with increasing male age. With the risk of male infertility, other effects have also been noticed with sperm of older males. They lose strength, flexibility and endurance, becoming less fit. Also, with the stress of ageing, there is a decrease in sperm volume and quality. If conception takes place, there are risks to the fetus. Some offspring of older men have shown greater risks for autism and psychiatric conditions.
While most women are knowledgeable about the consequences of age and fertility, many men are not. Younger men should focus on their general health, maintaining a nutritious diet (and decreasing “unhealthy” foods) with regular exercising. Limiting (or cutting out) alcohol consumption, smoking and drugs would be ideal. Stress control would also benefit.
A scientific study conducted by Andrology Center, India looked at the impact of increasing male age on sperm DNA Fragmentation levels of 6881 Indian male patients. Patients ranged in age from 23 years to 61 years of age. It was very interesting to note that patients over 45 years of age reported the highest levels of DFI (meaning had poor quality sperm DNA integrity). When semen counts were correlated with age and sperm DNA quality, it was found that younger males with low sperm counts were more likely to have high DFI levels. One of the most interesting pieces of information to come from this study was the fact that Sperm DNA fragmentation was found to significantly increase in male patients after the age of 36 years.
If you are in your 30s (or older) and would like to have a check on the quantity, morphology and motility of your sperm, a basic semen analysis can be done. For a more advanced analysis of Sperm DNA fragmentation, an SCSA test can be done. For those males who are thinking of starting a family later on, or who may need a vasectomy, there is the option of freezing and storing sperm for future use.
We, at Andrology Center, offer tests with high tech equipment, not only for semen analysis but for DFI (showing the DNA quality of the sperm) as well. We are the only centre in India licensed to conduct the genuine SCSA (Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay) test, which is the GOLD STANDARD of Sperm DNA Fragmentation testing. It quickly and accurately identifies sperm with DNA fragmentation. The accuracy of the results is guaranteed. Based on such results, you could consult a Fertility expert for further guidance and/or treatment.