Older fathers linked to increased birth risks

By Julie Griffiths on 05 November 2018 Study Low Birthweight Expectant fathers

Increased risks at birth, including low birthweight and seizures, have been associated with babies of older fathers in a study in the US. 

Findings suggest that the age of the father can even sway the health of the mother during pregnancy, specifically her risk for developing diabetes.

Data from more than 40 million births in the US show that babies born to fathers of an ‘advanced paternal age’ (roughly older than 35), were at a higher risk for adverse birth outcomes, such as low birthweight, seizures and need for ventilation immediately after birth.

Risks appeared to increase with age with men who were 45 or older 14% more likely to have a child born prematurely, and men 50 or older 28% more likely to have a child that required admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.

‘We tend to look at maternal factors in evaluating associated birth risks, but this study shows that having a healthy baby is a team sport, and the father's age contributes to the baby's health, too,’ said senior study author and associate professor of urology Michael Eisenberg.

However, he stressed that the risks are still ‘relatively’ low but the findings should be used as ‘informational ammunition for people planning a family’.

The research team used data from 40.5 million live births documented through a data-sharing program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics. 

The information was organised based on the fathers' age – younger than 25; 25 to 34; 35 to 44; 45 to 55; and older than 55 – and controlled for a variety of parameters, such as race, education level, marital status, smoking history, access to care and the mother's age.

The data suggest that once a dad hits age 35, there's a slight increase in birth risks overall – with every year that a man ages, he accumulates on average two new mutations in the DNA of his sperm—but birth risks for infants born to fathers of the subsequent age tier showed sharper increases.

Michael said that what was really surprising was that there seemed to be an association between advanced paternal age and the chance that the mother would develop diabetes during pregnancy. 

For men age 45 and older, their partners were 28% more likely to develop gestational diabetes, compared with fathers between 25 and 34.

‘Having a better understanding of the father's biological role will be obviously important for the offspring, but also potentially for the mother,’ he added.

Access the study here.