Men Have A Biological Clock Too

At 40 and hoping to have her first child, Lisa Miller hears her biological clock ticking.

"You almost want to hurry up, let's go and get started and move forward," says Mrs. Miller.

Her husband Gary, on the other hand, isn't concerned. He is 57.

"Honestly, I never really worried about it," he says.

Well, maybe he should. Though the conventional wisdom is men can have children well into old age, a new medical consensus is emerging: Time waits for no man.

"Men do have a biological clock," says Peter Schlegel, M.D., the chairman of urology at Weill Cornell Medical College and Urologist-in-Chief at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Recent studies suggest the older a man gets, the greater the chances are his partner will miscarry and higher the risks of birth defects or even psychological disorders in his children.

"They have an increased rate of having children with schizophrenia, autism, some developmental issues, as well," explains Dr. Schlegel.

Experts believe the testes are subject to the ravages of aging just like any other organ in the body. They all begin to break down over time. Starting in their 40s, men experience a very gradual decline in fertility and an increase in genetic errors in their semen. This leads to the rise in birth defects. But couples should not panic.

"These diseases are incredibly rare, so your absolute risk of having a child with birth defects or problems is extremely small," Dr. Schlegel says.

That's a relief to the Millers. Though the clock ticks, they remain hopeful.

Doctors emphasize the decline in fertility for men is slow. To maintain their reproductive health, older men should exercise moderately, eat a healthy diet, and avoid exposure to excess heat and hot tubs.

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NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
Weill Cornell Medical Center
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New York, NY 10021

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