In 2012, proud dad Ramjit Raghav made global headlines when he became a father at the age of 96. He had beaten the record for the world’s oldest dad – a record he’d set himself, two years earlier, at the age of 94.
Older men fathering children is not unknown, especially in the world of celebrities. Rod Stewart became a dad for the eighth time at 66, Mick Jagger at the age of 72, and Bernie Ecclestone became a father again at the age of 89 in July 2020. Men can produce sperm from puberty to a ripe old age and continue to father children as long as they do so.
Women, on the other hand, have a limited fertile window. Past 51 – the average age of menopause – they cease to release any eggs and become infertile. Both men and women are delaying having children. The average age of first-time mothers in the UK is nearly 29 and fathers 33.
The biological difference often lead to discussions of women’s biological clocks running out, while men are under the impression they’ll stay fertile for much longer. But the reality is much more complex than that. There is a growing body of research showing that men’s fertility is hugely affected by age.
As women age, both the number and the quality of her eggs declines. All the eggs a woman will ever have for her reproductive life is determined before she’s born, through a processes called oogenesis.
By the 20th week of pregnancy, a female foetus has approximately 6 to 7 million germ cells, all with the potential to turn into eggs. After this, the number of germ cells drops steeply. Those that remain develop into primary oocytes, or immature egg cells.
These immature egg cells go through some changes, then form primordial follicles, each containing an egg. These primordial follicles will remain at this stage until puberty, by which time there are 400,000 to 500,000 left.
At the start of puberty until menopause, groups of primordial follicles are activated and start to mature. Each month, one mature egg cell will ovulate – be released into the Fallopian tube. As the woman ages, the number of follicles continue to decline with age. Those remaining immature eggs can stay at this stage for up to 50 years. During this time, they can accumulate chromosomal errors as they age, increasing the risk of conditions such as Down’s syndrome.
This ageing of the egg cells and the continuing drop in numbers are responsible for the limited fertile window in women. This decline in fertility occurs more steeply after the age of 35 where she will have roughly 25,000 eggs in her ovaries. By the time she reaches menopause there will be just 1,000 eggs remaining.
Men’s fertility doesn’t stop as abruptly as women’s. The testis can still produce the male hormone testosterone and sperm cells, enabling some men to father children in to their 90s.
However, this doesn’t mean men’s fertility is unaffected by age. One study showed after adjusting for female age, conception during a 12-month period was 30% less likely for men over the age of 40 compared with men younger than 30.
Although sperm is still being produced, the quality changes. The number of sperm produced, called the concentration or count, how well the sperm swim, known as their motility, and the shape of the sperm, called their morphology, are all known to change with age.
One study examining sperm quality in 5,081 men aged 16.5 to 72.3 years reported ejaculate volume, sperm concentration, sperm motility and sperm morphology didn’t change before the age of 34. However, sperm concentration and the proportion of sperm of normal morphology declined after the age of 40. Sperm motility fell after the age of 43 and ejaculate volume after 45.
In a 2015 meta-analysis study, using data from 90 studies, male age was associated with a decrease in semen volume, a decrease in total sperm count, a decrease in motility and a decrease in the percentage of normal sperm morphology.
Older fathers are also associated with negative effects on the child. Older men can accumulate damage and mutations in sperm DNA that may result in increased risks of unsuccessful or abnormal pregnancies, because of fertilisation with damaged sperm. The offspring of older fathers show high prevalence of genetic abnormalities, childhood cancers and several neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism, psychosis and bipolar disorders.
Read more: Explainer: how can twins have different fathers?
In a recent study in the BMJ men aged 45 years or older had increased odds of fathering infants born premature, of low birth weight, and with a low Apgar score – a score used to test the health of a newborn – compared with their younger counterparts. On top of this, the offspring of fathers older than 55 were more likely to require assisted ventilation and admission to a neonatal intensive care unit.
Women’s fertility window is, on average, much shorter than the years men are able to produce sperm. But the negative effect of older age on fertility in women is well documented.
For men, there’s increasing evidence indicating older men have poorer semen quality, increased sperm DNA damage and mutations, leading to less reproductive success. Older men should also be counselled on their offspring’s possible increased risk of certain medical conditions.
Does age affect sperm fertility? ›
Age and sperm
Men younger than 40 have a better chance of fathering a child than those older than 40. The quality of the sperm men produce seems to decline as they get older. Most men make millions of new sperm every day, but men older than 40 have fewer healthy sperm than younger men.
“As we age, the testicles, like any other organ, don't function as well as they used to.” For men, aging can affect the quality of their sperm, including the motility, morphology (shape) and concentration, which then makes it more difficult for sperm to fertilize an egg.What age range are men most 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.How does age affect fertility? ›
A woman's peak reproductive years are between the late teens and late 20s. By age 30, fertility (the ability to get pregnant) starts to decline. This decline happens faster once you reach your mid-30s. By 45, fertility has declined so much that getting pregnant naturally is unlikely.How does age affect male sperm? ›
Similar to motility, morphology appears to decrease with advancing male age. Studies indicate declines in normal sperm morphology of 0.2% to 0.9% per year of age, resulting in a 4% to 18% decrease in normal morphology over a 20-year period.At what age do men stop producing sperm? ›
Although men never stop producing sperm throughout their lives, sperm production does begin decreasing after age 35. Motility, volume and genetic quality of sperm of older men are less likely to achieve a successful pregnancy even in younger women.What is the most common fertility problem for men? ›
Problems with making healthy sperm are the most common causes of male infertility. Sperm may be immature, abnormally shaped, or unable to swim. In some cases, you may not have enough sperm.
Causes of male infertility
Abnormal sperm production or function due to undescended testicles, genetic defects, health problems such as diabetes, or infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, mumps or HIV. Enlarged veins in the testes (varicocele) also can affect the quality of sperm.
- Take D-aspartic acid supplements. ...
- Exercise regularly. ...
- Get enough vitamin C. ...
- Relax and minimize stress. ...
- Get enough vitamin D. ...
- Try tribulus terrestris. ...
- Take fenugreek supplements. ...
- Get enough zinc.
Your fertility naturally declines as you get older, which could make it harder for you to conceive. And starting a family later in life could pose greater risks for pregnancy complications. Experts say the best time to get pregnant is between your late 20s and early 30s.
How do you know when a man is fertile? ›
- Scrotal ultrasound. This test uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images inside your body. ...
- Transrectal ultrasound. A small, lubricated wand is inserted into your rectum. ...
- Hormone testing. ...
- Post-ejaculation urinalysis. ...
- Genetic tests. ...
- Testicular biopsy. ...
- Specialized sperm function tests.
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 . There are many reasons for this, including: Sperm quality tends to decrease with age.Does a 70 year old man produce sperm? ›
Many people think that while a woman's fertility starts to decline in her 30s and 40s, men can continue to conceive children naturally in their 70s and 80s. However, while sperm production continues throughout a man's life, the quality and concentration of the sperm may start to decline.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.Can a 75 year old man still produce sperm? ›
Men, on the other hand, constantly produce new sperm and some men past the age of 80 occasionally father children. That fuels the myth that men remain fertile all of their lives and can parent children as long as they can perform sexually.What 3 problems can affect male fertility? ›
Other causes of low sperm numbers include long-term sickness (such as kidney failure), childhood infections (such as mumps), and chromosome or hormone problems (such as low testosterone). Damage to the reproductive system can cause low or no sperm.What are the 3 main problems of infertility in men? ›
Male fertility problems include poor quality sperm, low sperm count or blockages in the tubes of the reproductive system. Treatment options for poor sperm quality include inseminating the man's partner with a concentrated sample of the man's semen and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).How old can men have kids? ›
There's no maximum age that stops a man from being able to have a baby. You can become a father long into your older years, but there are risks.What are four causes of infertility in males? ›
- Azoospermia: Your infertility can be related to your inability to produce sperm cells.
- Oligospermia: The production of low or poor quality sperm.
- Genetic diseases: Examples include Klinefeflter's syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, microdeletion and more.
Overall, one-third of infertility cases are caused by male reproductive issues, one-third by female reproductive issues, and one-third by both male and female reproductive issues or by unknown factors. To conceive a child, a man's sperm must combine with a woman's egg.
Are fertility issues more common in men? ›
Male infertility is caused by multiple factors such as abnormal sperm production, blockage of delivery of sperm or low sperm production. Roughly 15 percent of couples in the United States have trouble conceiving, and over 50 percent of the time, there is a male infertility issue.How often should a man release sperm? ›
There is no specific frequency with which a man should ejaculate. There is no solid evidence that failure to ejaculate causes health problems. However, ejaculating frequently can reduce the man's risk of getting prostate cancer. Ejacu-lation can be through having sex or masturbating a few times a day.How do I last longer in bed naturally food? ›
- Walnuts: Walnuts are very good for premature ejaculation. ...
- Banana: Bananas contain a unique enzyme called Bromelain, it supports your libido and expands sperm production. ...
- Avocado: Avocados are rich in several vitamins including C, K and B. ...
- Spinach: ...
- Carrots: ...
Based on the study findings, they suggest the optimal time between giving birth and getting pregnant again is 18 months, with a range of 12 to 24 months. That said, many experts still adhere to the recommendation of 18 to 24 months.What does it mean if your sperm thick? ›
Thick semen usually results from a higher than normal concentration of sperm in a typical volume of semen, or from having a high number of sperm with an irregular shape (morphology). High sperm concentration often indicates that you're more likely to impregnate a female partner.What are the signs of low sperm count in a man? ›
- Problems with sexual function — for example, low sex drive or difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
- Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area.
- Decreased facial or body hair or other signs of a chromosome or hormone abnormality.
Obesity, too much alcohol, and smoking cigarettes all negatively affect sperm count and overall sperm health. So does stress. In fact, stress can actually cause sperm abnormalities and lower sperm concentration.Does the age of the father affect 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 .What percentage of men have kids after 40? ›
78.4% for fathers age 20–39. 62.6% for fathers age 40–49. 25% for fathers over 50.Who is the oldest man to have a baby? ›
The oldest ever man to father a child was reportedly Les Colley (1898 - 1998, Australia), who had his ninth child a son named Oswald to his third wife at the age of 92 years 10 months. Colley met Oswald's Fijian mother in 1991 through a dating agency at the age of 90.
How old does a man have to be to be fertile? ›
Men can produce sperm from puberty to a ripe old age and continue to father children as long as they do so. Women, on the other hand, have a limited fertile window. Past 51 – the average age of menopause – they cease to release any eggs and become infertile. Both men and women are delaying having children.Is 45 too late for a man to have kids? ›
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 . There are many reasons for this, including: Sperm quality tends to decrease with age.Can a 60 year old man still produce sperm? ›
Although a man's fertility can theoretically last until death, sperm production has been found to decline from around the age of 50. Although it is still possible to conceive a child, and many men do have children in their 50s or later, it may take longer for you and your partner to become pregnant.