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Aging and Male Reproductive Health

August 13, 2018

Fairfax Cryobank partners with Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education organization. Their mission is to provide support and unbiased information before, during and after adoption or fertility treatment to help create strong families. This article is courtesy of Creating a Family:

Aging and Male Reproductive Health

Embryos do not show a gender differentiation until 6 weeks, but the beginnings of testicles are apparent (if you really know what you are looking for) at 8 weeks.  At 3-6 months after birth, male babies go through a mini-puberty with rises in testosterone that equals mid puberty.  The reasons for this mini-puberty are not clear, but they think it may have something to do with priming the brain for maleness.  Testosterone drops of dramatically until puberty.  Scientists do not know what sets of the pubertal clock (yes, that is an actual term), but there is strong evidence that the age of puberty is dropping, most likely caused by environmental factors.  Unfortunately, they did not discuss what environmental factors were most suspect.

We all know that it possible for a man to father children into old age (the oldest man to do so was 94), but it is surprisingly hard to study from an epidemiological standpoint if male fertility declines with age, since the male factor is masked by the decline in female fertility with age.  To study the effect of age on male fertility a population is needed where:

  • Contraceptives are not routinely used
  • High quality records are kept
  • Greater acceptance of older men married to younger women

The Mormons have historically provided such a population, and studies of this population have found that male fertility declines only slightly with age, and doesn’t begin men are older than 70.

The presentation, however, supported the findings that there are genetic hazards with older fathers.  Miscarriages are more common with older fathers.  Psychiatric problems are higher in the offspring of older father, such as bipolar, schizophrenia, and autism.  The presenters went into little new details on the increased prevalence of these mental illnesses since this was not the subject off their research and they were simply summarizing the existing research on this topic.

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