Babies born to older fathers are less likely to be healthy at birth, major study suggests

'The risks associated with advancing paternal age should be included in discussions regarding family planning and reproductive counselling,' study says

Thursday 01 November 2018 02:10
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Researchers assessed data on 40,529,905 live births that took place in the US between 2007 and 2016
Researchers assessed data on 40,529,905 live births that took place in the US between 2007 and 2016

Babies whose fathers are 45-years-old and over are more likely to be less healthy at birth, a study of more than 40 million deliveries has suggested.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, found the children of older fathers were born 20.2g lighter, and had a 14 per cent greater risk of low birth weight (2.5kg) than infants born to fathers aged 25 to 34.

Babies with fathers aged 45 or older had a 14 per cent higher chance of being admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit.

They were also born on average 0.12 weeks earlier and were 14 per cent more likely to be premature than those born to younger fathers, the study found.

Researchers at Stanford University in California assessed data on 40,529,905 live births that took place in the US between 2007 and 2016.

They said the study was important because it offered rare insight into the impact a father's age can have on a child, where women have for years been encouraged not to put off having babies due to concerns over health and medical complications.

They added that while the absolute risks of being an older father remain low, the findings "emphasise the importance" of including data on men when investigating the public health implications of rising parental age.

The report said: "A significant number of these negative birth outcomes were estimated to be prevented if older fathers had elected to have children before the age of 45 years. The risks associated with advancing paternal age should be included in discussions regarding family planning and reproductive counselling."

Approximately 35,000 men aged 45 and over now father children in Britain each year, accounting for one in 20 of all births, according to the latest figures from the Office For National Statistics. In 1998 just 8,000 men had children when they were 45 or over, a figure which had risen to 13,000 by 2008.

Professor Sheena Lewis, an expert in male fertility from Queen’s University in Belfast told The Telegraph: “Age can lead to more Sperm DNA damage and this in turn can lead to poorer offspring health. It is so important to teach schoolboys boys to add fatherhood to their life/career plan.”

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