A new study released by Stanford University School of Medicine has linked babies of older fathers with a variety of increased health risks at birth.
The paper published on Wednesday in the journal British Medical Journal, indicated that babies born to fathers of an “advanced paternal age” which roughly equates to older than 35, are at a higher risk for adverse birth outcomes.
Speaking on the study, one of the researchers, Michael Eisenberg, MD, Associate Professor of Urology, said: “We tend to look at maternal factors in evaluating associated birth risks, but this study shows that having a healthy baby is a team sport, and the father’s age contributes to the baby’s health, too.”
The study, based on data from more than 40 million births, also suggested that the age of the father can affect the health of the mother during pregnancy, specifically her risk for developing diabetes pointing out that “the older a father’s age, the greater the risk.”
The study claimed that men who are 45 or older are 14 per cent more likely to have a child born prematurely, and men 50 or older are 28 per cent more likely to have a child that requires admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.
According to the study, once a dad attains age 35, the birth risks slightly increases. “With every year that a man ages, he accumulates on average two new mutations in the DNA of his sperm,” it said.
The study further suggested that the risk of gestational diabetes for pregnant women also increases in line with the age of the father.
“Women carrying the child of a man aged 55 years or older have a 34 per cent higher chance of gestational diabetes,” the study stressed.
The researchers however noted that the intention of the study was not to scare people but to educate the public and health officials: “Still, these numbers aren’t reason to drastically change any life plans, as the risks are still relatively low. Instead the findings are informational ammunition for people planning a family.”
The researchers organized data based on the fathers’ age: younger than 25; 25 to 34; 35 to 44; 45 to 55; and older than 55 and adjusted for mothers’ age, maternal smoking, race, education and other factors.