In a world where famous septuagenarians routinely sire children with women a fraction of their age, it’s easy to see why the limitations of male fertility are rarely considered
According to popular legend and lore, ovaries and Fallopian tubes fossilize faster than you can say “Medusa,” but men can effortlessly reproduce well into their golden years — right? Just ask Rod Stewart, Tony Randall and Mick Jagger.
Not so fast, fellas! As it turns out, we’ve been misled about the biological clocks of both sexes. Women are fertile far longer than ancient evidence claims and you, my silver-templed friend, are running out of time.
My female clients frequently discuss their anxieties with me re: fertility. Single and in their 30s, they wonder how to get the life and family they want when there’s no man on the horizon.
Should they freeze their eggs? Hit up a sperm bank? Beg their gay bestie? Could it already be too late?
Meanwhile, men in the same age bracket busy themselves with careers and casual dating, thinking they might consider settling down and having a family in five or 10 years. Maybe. Possibly. There’s so much Pokémon Go to play in the meantime!
If or when they’re ready, these men (now well into their 40s) come to me asking for significantly younger women. They’re worried that a woman in her mid-to-late 30s might not be able to deliver (quite literally), yet barely give any thought to their own waning fertility.
“The idea that women should be panicked and men have not a care in the world is simply inaccurate,” says Moira Weigel, author of the new book Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating. “The single most surprising thing I learned (while researching my book) was this: men and women are found to experience fertility problems at exactly equal rates.”
“According to the most recent data of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which comes from 2014 or 2015, in couples seeking fertility treatment in the United States, 40 per cent of the time the issue was found to be male factor, 40 per cent of the time it was found to be female factor and 20 per cent of the time the doctor couldn’t tell.”
New information about female fertility was brought to the public’s attention in 2013 by Jean Twenge in her Atlantic magazine feature “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?” she writes: “The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying … is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830.”
Seriously? So you’re telling me that a generation of young women have been plagued with anxiety and sleepless nights over statistics from a time before electricity, indoor plumbing or tetanus shots? Research this dusty wouldn’t even fly in a high school science lab.
Women’s reproductive health, longevity and immunity has improved significantly in the past several centuries. So why the continued assumptions that age 35 signals a female fertility apocalypse?
On the flip side, recent science suggests that sperm count, motility and morphology (shape and normalcy of cells) all decline dramatically when a man enters middle age. According to a recent (like, definitely not before the Civil War) article in the journal Fertility and Sterility, sperm count and motility drop by almost half when you compare men aged 20 to 30 with men aged 51 to 60. Sperm morphology was significantly affected, as well.
In other words: your swimmers are making like Mark Spitz in your 20s and 30s but by the time you reach 50, they’re doing an exhausted dog paddle and politely sputtering for a life-jacket.
We’ve spent decades wringing our hands over the limitations of female fertility. It’s time for men take responsibility for the age-related effects of infertility, as well. If they’re intent on biological fatherhood, men should make serious commitment and trying for a family a priority earlier on.
Source: The Star