When it comes to predicting or assessing birth risks, a lot of the focus has been on maternal factors. Maternal age, health, and lifestyle play a huge role in the development of healthy fetuses and babies. Additionally, genetic makeup from moms and dads factor into the equation. But for the most part, it falls on moms. Obviously, this makes sense, as biological women are the ones who get pregnant and carry children. However, new research suggests that we need to pay more attention to paternal health and age, as well. A new study out of Stanford Medicine indicates that babies born to older fathers have a variety of increased birth risks.
The study, conducted at Stanford University School of Medicine, examined the link between older fathers and birth risks.
After examining a decade of live birth data from the United States, researchers found a link between increased adverse birth risks and babies born to older fathers. Some of the risks include low birth weight, seizures, and the need for oxygen right after birth. Additionally, the data suggests that paternal age can even sway maternal health during pregnancy. Older fathers were associated with an increased risk for gestational diabetes in mothers.
To reach their conclusions, researchers studied data from more than 40 million live births in the US.
What they found is surprising. Babies born to older fathers were at a higher risk for adverse birth risks. Advanced paternal age is considered 35 and older. In general, the older the father, the greater the risk. For example, men 45 or older were 14% more likely to have a baby born prematurely. Men over the age of 50 saw that risk go up, with 28% of men in this age group being more likely to have a child who needed intensive neonatal care.
While the data isn’t enough to make any drastic life plan changes, it definitely warrants further investigation. Especially since older fathers are on the rise. Michael Eisenberg, MD, is an associate professor of urology and part of the research team. In 2017, he published a study that showed more men were fathering children at an advanced paternal age. 10% of infants are born to men over the age of 40 now. Four decades ago, only 4% of babies were born to older fathers. Says Eisenberg, “”We’re seeing these shifts across the United States, across race strata, across education levels, geography — everywhere you look, the same patterns are being seen. So I do think it’s becoming more relevant for us to understand the health ramifications of advanced paternal age on infant and maternal health.”
As we noted above, advanced paternal age is considered 35 and over.
When a man hits 35, there is an increase in birth risks overall, although slight. But every year a man ages, the risks increase sharply. The study notes, ” infants born to men 45 or older were 14 percent more likely to be admitted to the NICU, 14 percent more likely to be born prematurely, 18 percent more likely to have seizures and 14 percent more likely to have a low birth weight. If a father was 50 or older, the likelihood that their infant would need ventilation upon birth increased by 10 percent, and the odds that they would need assistance from the neonatal intensive care unit increased by 28 percent.”