With life getting busier, marriage and parenthood often take the backseat. We know that having a baby as an older mum may carry certain health risks for both baby and mother. But what about older dads? Well, a new study has found out that becoming a father after 45 may lead to a variety of health issues in your first baby.
Becoming a father after 45 linked to health issues in babies
Michael Eisenberg, from Stanford University, coordinated the study with fellow researchers. They sought to better grasp how late-age fatherhood could affect babies and mums. The study was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Eisenberg and his team searched through data ranging over 40.5 million births in America between 2007 and 2016.
They found that becoming a dad after 45 led to their newborn babies:
- weighing generally 20 grams less than babies of younger dads. Newborns of dads over 45 also had a 14 per cent higher risk of low birthweight (defined as being under 2.5 kilos), compared to babies of younger dads.
- having a 14 per cent higher chance likelier to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit
- having an 18 per cent higher chance of getting a seizure compared to newborns from 25-34 year old dads
Mums carrying the baby of a man over 55 also had a 34% heightened risk of gestational diabetes. Researchers calculated roughly that 13% of premature births could be linked to older dads.
However, scientists do warn people to take their findings with a grain of salt, explaining that they examined medical records instead of conducting a controlled experiment. Since a proper study wasn’t set up, scientists can’t make a definite inference about cause and effect.
While the general risk of these health issues stayed low, the results remained even after accounting for other possible factors that could affect it, like the mum’s age, maternal smoking, education level, said scientists.
In the end researchers advised that people should think carefully before becoming a father after 45:
“A significant number of these negative birth outcomes were estimated to be prevented if older fathers had elected to have children before the age of 45.
The risk associated with advanced paternal age should be included in discussions regarding family planning and reproductive counselling.”
First-time dads of developed countries are getting older and older
Developed countries are seeing a general rise in the ages of first time dads, including the percentage of dads older than 45 and 55.
For instance, America has seen twice as many babies born from men above 40 within the last 40 years. Similar patterns are also emerging from western Europe. In England, for example, there was a 15% increase in babies born from dads over 35 from 1993 till 2003.
Up until now, much of research focusing on parental age and health issues in kids mostly looked at older mums.
However, recent studies show that becoming a father after 45, i.e., being an older dad, had health consequences for babies too. Becoming a dad while older may be linked to increased risks of autism, genetic irregularities, and mental issues in newborns.
The reason? Scientists think that male reproductive cells become different as they age. These changes may modify genes too, leading to potential health issues in babies.
Changes towards the sperm could be the reason why becoming a father after 45 leads to so many issues in fathers’ babies. | Image Source: Stock Photo
Other things that could risk a baby’s health outcome: tips for mums!
Other than you or your partner’s age, do be careful of the following things while you’re pregnant, mums. These things could seriously affect your baby’s health outcome after birth.
Alcohol is a powerful toxin which can damage your unborn baby before birth. As a new study (2018) shows, any amount of alcohol is dangerous to the baby. It can cause fetal alcohol syndrome – which lasts until adulthood. The effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy include:
- intellectual disabilities
- a massive decrease in the body size and weight during birth
- irregularities in facial features, which could alter the nose, eyelids, lips and jaw
- issues which lead to the heart, urinary, genital and skeletal systems and structures to stop working properly
Eating raw, unclean, or vitamin A rich food.
Mums, with pregnancy comes a lot of pantangs, including:
- raw food like eggs (and its products, e.g. mayonnaise), uncooked meat (rare or raw meat, pates, tartares, sushi, shellfish cooked rare, oysters, uncooked poultry, etc) and raw sprouts
- vegetables that haven’t been washed properly (pathogens can linger in the surface and some which can cross the placenta can infect your baby, leading to other pre-birth complications)
- large fish like Marlin, shark, mackerel, and tuna, which can contain a lot of mercury. Mercury can harm your little one and cause birth defects
- unpasteurised food like cheese, milk, juice.
- Smoking. In a previous article, we highlighted that smoking can cause low birth weight. Low birth weight is an indicator of all sorts of other health issues your child may face after birth. Smoking also risks many other foetal abnormalities and cleft lip.
Mums, do remember to take care of yourselves properly during pregnancy so that you’re baby receives the best health outcome possible before birth. That includes eating a healthy diet, maintaining healthy weight by exercising and avoiding the toxic substances we’ve outlined above. Do also consult a medical professional to ensure that you’re receiving the right nutrients and can treat problems (if any) early on.
References: BMJ, SCMP
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