Women Aren't the Only Ones With a "Biological Clock"—Men Lose Fertility as They Age, Too

Illustration for article titled Women Aren't the Only Ones With a "Biological Clock"—Men Lose Fertility as They Age, Too

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.

[Washington Post]

Top image by Goodluz via Shutterstock

Contact the author at diane@io9.com.

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Well, at 52, this definitely applies to me. Back in 1981, at 17, I probably had the usual 200 million or so sperm. Now, barely a tenth of that and that remainder, malformed and 6 times as likely to generate birth defects in an embryo.

I’ve long since reconciled myself to this.

For me, extremely uptight nerd boy growing up in the 80s, I didn’t lose my virginity until 30. And there was sexual dysfunction brought on by years of masturbation. This was later fixed by retraining old habits of course but, again, more years lost to it.

It just wasn’t in the cards for me.

I suppose I’m wistful but, as it is, considering that a child in the postindustrial world consumes more than 20 times the resources as a child in the poorest parts of the world, I figured I took a hit to save a tiny portion of the planet. I got to be green just by not letting myself be a robot for my genes—and I’m green is lots of other ways, yay me!