What do Mick Jagger, Bernie Ecclelstone, Rupert Murdoch and Rod Stewart have in common?
Answer: they’re all dads who became fathers past the age of sixty, 89 in Ecclestone’s case!
Their celebrity status has helped reinforce the myth that male fertility is a constant, with men always being able to conceive regardless of age.
Unfortunately, it is, indeed, a myth. And now comes another nail in that coffin: there really is a male biological clock and it starts ticking earlier than most people imagine. A study by the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health (CRGH), London, UK has found that the probability of a live birth drops by a third if the father is over 50 years old.
Dr. Guy Morris, CRGH, Study Leader said, “There may well be a public perception that male fertility is independent of age. Stories of celebrity men fathering children into their 60s may give a skewed perspective on the potential risks.”
Men shouldn’t delay fatherhood
The conclusion from Dr Morris’s study is plain and short, “There should be a public health message for men not to delay fatherhood.”
The myth, propagated by stories in the media about celebrities like Jagger and Ecclestone, suggests that there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to conceive well into your 70s. After all, men produce sperm their whole lives, so – theoretically – a man can father a child into his 90s. However, the problem is that sperm quality starts decline for men in their 20s.
Men become less fertile as they age
From the age of 30 testosterone naturally starts to reduce so, while the potential remains, in actuality men become less fertile as they get older. In other words, just because Mick Jagger or Bernie Ecclestone can have a healthy child at an advanced age, possibly because of their easy access to medical assistance, doesn’t mean anyone can.
A GP familiar with the issue said, “They’re rare cases, and extremely unhelpful. By highlighting a 70-something celebrity saying ‘Look! I’ve had my 17th kid with my wife, who’s 25,’ is not going to apply to 90 percent of the population, because most people’s fertility will go down.”
The average father is past his reproductive peak
Most experts agree that sperm production in the average western male seems to face a smooth but progressive downhill from age 30. However, if you consider that the average age of fathers to babies born in the UK in 2019 was 33.6, a figure that has increased for 10 consecutive years, that means the average father is past his reproductive peak.
The GP continued, “Women will often plan for it, they’ll think, ‘I’ll have my job, then I’ll do this or that and get healthy, then get ready to have some kids.’ Men don’t think like that. They think they can have their kid any time, drink, get fat in their 30s and think about having kids in their 40s. When women come into the clinic having fertility issues, they’ll have already reduced drinking, smoking, changed their lifestyles. Whereas guys will have done absolutely nothing. And they often don’t, because it requires changing their life. Another thing is that they think they have healthy sperm because they can ejaculate. But that’s your semen you can see, not your sperm.”
It seems there are many aspects of men’s health that are social or cultural misconceptions and fertility is an excellent example of one. The men who have children over the age of 70 are the rare exceptions and we shouldn’t think of them as the norm. Instead, men should be aware of their biological clocks and plan around it as do women. In other words, don’t delay!