Dads-to-be: how your age can affect your fertility and your baby's health (2023)

In this article

  • Does my age affect my fertility?
  • Will it take longer to conceive as I get older?
  • Does my risk of having a baby with genetic problems increase as I age?
  • Does my partner’s age affect my own fertility?
  • What can I do to protect my fertility as I age?

It’s easy to think that your age doesn’t matter when it comes to having a child. After all, celebrities such as Robert De Niro and Mick Jagger have fathered healthy babies well into their twilight years. And according to Guinness World Records, the oldest man to father a child was an incredible 92 years old at the time of the birth! However, the truth about male fertility and age may surprise you.

Does my age affect my fertility?

In short, yes (Harris 2019, NICE 2013). Although most men are able to have children well into their 50s and beyond, it becomes gradually more difficult after the age of 40 (Harris 2019). There are many reasons for this, including:

  • Sperm quality tends to decrease with age. In particular, the shape (morphology) and movement (motility) of your sperm are both likely to deteriorate as you get older, making it more difficult for them to fertilise an egg(Harris et al 2011, Harris 2019). You may also produce less sperm as you age. (Harris 2019)
  • From about the age of 40, your testosterone levels are likely to decrease(Harris et al 2011). This may reduce your libido, or make it more difficult for you to have regular sex(Harris 2019).
  • Illnesses that decrease fertility are more common among older men(Harris 2019). Certain medications for later-life medical problems can also interfere with fertility(Harris et al 2011).
  • Older men tend to have older partners. Female fertility starts to decline after the age of 30, dropping more sharply after the age of 35. The older your partner, the more difficult it may be to conceive(Harris et al 2011).

These factors don’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to father a child in later life. But they do mean that it’s likely to be more difficult.

Will it take longer to conceive as I get older?

Yes, the older you are, the longer it’s likely to take for you and your partner to conceive. This is true no matter how old she is (Sartorius and Nieschlag 2010, Harris et al 2011).

On average, if both partners in a couple are under 25, they'll usually conceive within five months. But if the woman's under 25 and the man is over 40, it can take up to two years (Fertility Coalition 2019).

(Video) The Paternal Age Effect: The Risks of Old Sperm

Does my risk of having a baby with genetic problems increase as I age?

Unfortunately, certain genetic conditions do seem to be more common among babies with older fathers (Sartorius and Nieschlag 2010, Harris et al 2011). You may be at a slightly increased risk of having a baby with the following conditions as you get older, particularly in your 40s and beyond:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (Harris 2019, Sartorius and Nieschlag 2010)
  • Schizophrenia (Harris 2019, Sartorius and Nieschlag 2010), however the risk remains low.
  • Down's syndrome. Your risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome may increase slightly as you age, but only if your partner is over 35 (Sartorius and Nieschlag 2010, Harris et al 2011).
  • A certain type of leukemia (Petridou et al 2018). However, the increased risk is very small and leukemia is still rare among children of older fathers.

Sadly, your risk of conceiving a pregnancy which ends in miscarriage may also increase as you age (Harris 2019, Sartorius and Nieschlag 2010), particularly once you're over 40 (Harris 2019), and if your partner is over 35 (Sartorius and Nieschlag 2010).

Some research has suggested that babies with a father younger than 20 may be more at risk of low birth weight and low Apgar scores. However, other studies haven’t found the same results (Sartorius and Nieschlag 2010).

Although your age may influence these risks, it’s only one of a large number of factors (Sartorius and Nieschlag 2010, Harris et al 2011). Other aspects of your life and your partner’s life, such as your family medical history and your lifestyle, will have a much bigger effect.

Does my partner’s age affect my own fertility?

Yes, it does. As you age, your sperm is more likely to contain damaged DNA, which can make it more difficult to have a healthy baby (Harris 2019). Your partner’s eggs have a built-in mechanism that can repair damaged DNA introduced by sperm. But the older she is, the less effective this will be (Cozzubbo et al 2014). That's why some of the risks of genetic disorders only matter when both the mum and dad are older.

What can I do to protect my fertility as I age?

Happily, there’s plenty that you can do to keep your fertility and potency in tip-top condition. The following can all help to safeguard your chances of conceiving a healthy baby:

(Video) Men, age and fertility

  • Eat healthily. If you’re very overweight, losing a few pounds is likely to make it easier for you to conceive (NICE 2013, NHS 2017a). Some studies suggest that a diet rich in antioxidants may also help, though the research for this is less conclusive (Smits et al 2019).
  • Stop smoking. Men who smoke tend to have lower-quality semen than non-smokers (NICE 2013). Plus, if your partner does become pregnant, second-hand smoke will be dangerous for her and the baby. If you smoke, now is the perfect time to quit, to improve your health and protect your family (NHS 2017a, NICE 2013).
  • Cut back on alcohol. Drinking excessively can reduce your sperm quality (NICE 2013). The NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread out over at least three days. Try to stay well within these guidelines while you’re trying to conceive. One unit of alcohol is about half a pint of standard-strength beer or a 25ml measure of spirits, while a small (125ml) glass of wine contains 1.5 units (NHS 2017a).
  • Keep your groin cool. Your testicles make the best sperm when they’re slightly cooler than the rest of your body. So you may want to avoid having a laptop resting in your lap, spending lots of time in a hot environment, or sitting still for long periods of time. The research is still out on whether wearing loose-fitting underwear can help, but it may be worth a try (NICE 2013, NHS 2017).
  • Minimise stress. Feeling calm and relaxed makes it much easier to get in the mood for sex (NICE 2013, NHS 2017a), and in some circumstances it may actually improve your sperm quality (NHS 2017a). So if you’re trying to conceive, take it easy as much as possible (NICE 2013, NHS 2017a).

These tips may help to keep your fertility in tip-top condition. However, bear in mind that even healthy, fertile couples still sometimes take a little while to conceive.

If you and your partner have been trying for a baby without success for a year or more, go and see your GP (NHS 2017b). If your partner’s over 35, or either of you have any history of infertility, see your GP sooner than this (NHS 2017b). He’ll arrange for you both to have tests, to see whether there could be a medical reason for your difficulties (NHS 2017b).

Finally, you can comfort yourself with the fact that, while male fertility may gradually decline through the years, some men will still be able to father a healthy child well into their 50s and beyond.

Find out how your lifestyle can affect your fertility, and discover the best sex positions for getting pregnant.


Cozzubbo T, Neri QV, Rosenwaks GD et al. To what extent can oocytes repair sperm DNA fragmentation? Fert Steril 102:3,e61

(Video) Foods To Avoid For Male Fertility

Fertility Coalition. 2019. Age. Fertility Coalition, For everyone. [Accessed May 2019]

Ford WC, North K, Taylor H, et al. 2000. Increasing paternal age is associated with delayed conception in a large population of fertile couples: evidence for declining fecundity in older men. The ALSPAC Study Team (Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood).Hum Reprod. 15(8): 1703-8

GWR. nd. Oldest legal father. Guinness World Records. [Accessed May 2019]

Harris ID, Fronczak C, Roth L et al. 2011. Fertility and the aging male. Rev Urol. 13(4): e184-e190

Harris ID. 2019. Effect of advanced paternal age on fertility and pregnancy. UpToDate. [Accessed May 2019]

NHS. 2017a. How can I improve my chances of becoming a dad? NHS, Common health questions. [Accessed May 2019]

(Video) Does Age Affect Male Fertility? - Fertile Minds

NHS. 2017b. Infertility NHS, Health A-Z. [Accessed May 2019]

NICE. 2013. Fertility problems: assessment and treatment. Last updated September 2017. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Clinical Guideline CG156. [Accessed May 2019]

Petridou ET, Georgakis MK, Erdmann F et al. 2018. Advanced parental age as risk factor for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Eur J Epidemiol 33(10):965-76

Sartorius GA, Nieschlag E. 2010. Paternal age and reproduction. Hum Reprod Update. 16(1): 65-79.

Smits RM, Mackenzie-Proctor R, Yazdani A et al. Antioxidants for male subfertility. Cochrane review. [Accessed May 2019]

Show referencesHide references



Does the age of the father affect the health of the baby? ›

As the father grows older, the number of mutations in the father's genome increases, leading to an increase in the incidence of congenital malformations in offspring [11, 65]. Older paternal age may be harmful to the offspring's health in terms of genetic mutations, telomere length, and epigenetics [66].

Does age of a man affect fertility? ›

Male fertility generally starts to reduce around age 40 to 45 years when sperm quality decreases. Increasing male age reduces the overall chances of pregnancy and increases time to pregnancy (the number of menstrual cycles it takes to become pregnant) and the risk of miscarriage and fetal death.

How does age of parents affect baby? ›

Babies born to older mothers have a higher risk of certain chromosomal conditions, such as Down syndrome. The risk of pregnancy loss is higher. The risk of miscarriage and stillbirth increases with age. This may be because of preexisting medical conditions or because of chromosomal conditions in the baby.

What effect can the biological father's health have on the health and development of the child that is conceived? ›

It turned out, the more chronic conditions the father had, the more likely the newborn would encounter an issue -- namely, low birth weight, preterm birth, or NICU admittance. Analysis from the study showed that of these births, more than 6% occurred preterm, meaning the baby was born at 36 weeks or earlier.

What age should men stop having kids? ›

Paternal age is among the most significant factors affecting a couple's chance of conceiving and their pregnancy outcomes. Men over the age of 35–40 typically experience a decrease in sperm health, which affects: Pregnancy rates. Pregnancy rates decrease with paternal age.

Can a man cause birth defects? ›

The risk of birth defects is not associated with semen parameters or mode of conception in offspring of men visiting a reproductive health clinic.

What age are men most fertile? ›

Age and Male Fertility

Peak male fertility is around 25-29 years old. Sperm quality begins to decline at 30. At 45, men begin to experience a significant decrease in semen volume. Older men can also take longer to conceive a child.

What is the right age for a man to have a baby? ›

From a biological standpoint, experts recommend a man is best suited to fatherhood from his late 20s to early 30s. It is still possible for men to father a child in their 50s and older. According to Guinness World Records, the oldest man to father a child was 92 years old at the time of the birth.

What age are men more fertile? ›

The age where a man is most fertile is between 22 and 25 years. It is suggested to have children before the age of 35. After this age, the male fertility begins to worsen.

What age is hardest to parent baby? ›

But many first-time parents find that after the first month of parenthood, it can actually get more difficult. This surprising truth is one reason many experts refer to a baby's first three months of life as the “fourth trimester.” If months two, three, and beyond are tougher than you expected, you're not alone.

Are older fathers more likely to have daughters? ›

Previous studies have repeatedly found that one of the reliable predictors of the sex of the offspring is the age of the parent. Older parents are significantly more likely to have daughters than younger parents.

Do children of older fathers live longer? ›

The genetic make-up of sperm changes as a man ages and develops DNA code that favours a longer life - a trait he then passes to his children. The team found the link after analysing the DNA of 1,779 young adults.

Can men's health affect pregnancy? ›

Story highlights. Many moms-to-be know that their health even before they become pregnant – known as pre-conception health – can affect the health of their babies. Now, research is continuing to show that the pre-conception health of fathers also can influence a pregnancy and the baby.

How does a father's involvement with a baby affect the child's development? ›

A growing body of research points to positive effects on children of having an involved father. On average, children whose father is actively involved tend to have fewer problems with school achievement, behavior, and social interaction than children whose father is not actively involved in their life.

What is father role in reproductive health? ›

They are the head of the family, the decision makers in family planning, and decide the number of children, decide about whether to go to hospital for the baby - the breadwinner. If they see health as important, then they can provide the money for transport.”

What position is best for wife pregnant? ›

Sexual positions that allow for deep penetration are likely to be the best for conception as they allow the sperm to be deposited as close to the cervix as possible. The missionary position is often recommended for this reason.

How do you know if a man is fertile? ›

Tests for Infertility in Men

Because most causes of male infertility are related to sperm, the first test a urological health care provider will perform is a sperm count and analysis. Too low of a sperm count, misshapen sperm, and “lazy” or less-active-than-normal sperm can all lead to fertility issues.

What birth defects come from the father? ›

Some studies have linked increasing paternal age (over 40 or so years) with higher rates of conditions like autism and schizophrenia. Others have observed increased rates of birth abnormalities, such as heart defects, musculoskeletal abnormalities, and Down's syndrome. Mouse studies also support this.

Can a man influence baby gender? ›

Dr Michael Thomas MD (fertility specialist) actually advises that there are no methods to affect the sex of your child, including sexual position.

What is considered an older father? ›

These babies born to older fathers had increased birth risks such as seizures, low birth weight and need for ventilation immediately after birth. And “advanced paternal age” is not as old as you may think. Men older than 35 are considered to be of advanced paternal age.

What age produces the healthiest babies? ›

Experts say the best time to get pregnant is between your late 20s and early 30s. This age range is associated with the best outcomes for both you and your baby. One study pinpointed the ideal age to give birth to a first child as 30.5.

Does baby health depend on sperm? ›

The answer is yes. For instance, we know that sperm helps to determine how well the placenta forms — a key factor in fetal development — and that impaired sperm dramatically increases the likelihood of miscarriage, possibly because it is known to contain high levels of free radicals.

What age is best for fertility? ›

A woman's best reproductive years are in her 20s. Fertility gradually declines in the 30s, particularly after age 35. Each month that she tries, a healthy, fertile 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of getting pregnant.

What is the best age for a man to have his first child? ›

However, the number and quality of the sperm declines with your age. From a biological standpoint, experts recommend a man is best suited to fatherhood from his late 20s to early 30s. It is still possible for men to father a child in their 50s and older.

How can I keep healthy sperm for my baby? ›

What's the best way to produce healthy sperm?
  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Some research suggests that increasing body mass index (BMI) is linked with decreasing sperm count and sperm movement.
  2. Eat a healthy diet. ...
  3. Prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). ...
  4. Manage stress. ...
  5. Get moving.

Can a weak sperm make a baby? ›

Having a low sperm count decreases the odds that one of your sperm will fertilize your partner's egg, resulting in pregnancy. Nonetheless, many men who have a low sperm count are still able to father a child.

What Colour is healthy sperm? ›

Semen is normally a whitish-gray color. Changes in semen color might be temporary and harmless or a sign of an underlying condition that requires further evaluation.

Is 40 too old to be a dad? ›

Absolutely. So my advice for other would-be, could-be or soon-to-be fathers is as follows….. Regardless of your age, if you and your partner both feel ready (or almost ready) then don't wait.

What months are hardest with baby? ›

But many first-time parents find that after the first month of parenthood, it can actually get more difficult. This surprising truth is one reason many experts refer to a baby's first three months of life as the “fourth trimester.” If months two, three, and beyond are tougher than you expected, you're not alone.

What state is best to raise kids? ›

Massachusetts topped the list for the best state to raise a family. The New England state earned a total score of 66.14. It ranked second in both education & child care and affordability. The state is home to some of the country's best schools, including Harvard and MIT.

What is inherited from father only? ›

All men inherit a Y chromosome from their father, which means all traits that are only found on the Y chromosome come from dad, not mom.

What does the baby get from dad? ›

To form a fetus, an egg from the mother and sperm from the father come together. The egg and sperm each have one half of a set of chromosomes. The egg and sperm together give the baby the full set of chromosomes. So, half the baby's DNA comes from the mother and half comes from the father.

What genes does a child get from the father? ›

Typically, the mother's egg contributes an X chromosome, and the father's sperm provides either an X or a Y chromosome. A person with an XX pairing of sex chromosomes is biologically female, while a person with an XY pairing is biologically male.


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3. Dr. David Sinclair: The Biology of Slowing & Reversing Aging | Huberman Lab Podcast #52
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4. Male Fertility. The best age for a man to father a child. WATCH
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5. What Representing Men in Divorce Taught Me About Fatherhood | Marilyn York | TEDxUniversityofNevada
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6. Body Weight, Fertility And Pregnancy Health. Dr. Chudi Explains
(Open Clinic With Dr. Chudi [SnowspirationsHealth])
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