The Male Biological Clock: Myth or Reality

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When fertility is the topic being discussed, the female biological clock is a term which captures a good deal of attention because maternal age comes up as a principal issue with regards to infertility problems. Biological clock roughly defines the deadline for motherhood, the internal tick-tock in the body of a woman, which marks the decline of her fertility as she comes of age.

Women who tend to postpone motherhood due to career or some other reasons need to be more aware of this term because once they step on the wrong side of their mid-thirties, the changes in her body are actually going to lower their chances of conception, and at the same time, increase the risk of having a genetically abnormal baby.

When couples facing infertility issues go for treatment, it is not only women who are subjected to diagnosis, but men too. And if male factor infertility comes up as the cause, various aspects are studied to establish the exact reason. A vital question that arises here is whether there is a biological clock for men too, which can influence the fertility in men as they grow older. Let’s delve deeper to learn whether this term called “male biological clock” is a myth or reality!

The Influence of Age over Male Fertility

It is usually said that the male virility is hardly influenced by age and more than one example has been witnessed, where men in their eighties have borne children. A similar feat would though be impossible for a woman, which is the reason why female biological clock is an established reality unlike its male counterpart, which is still under study.

At the same time, latest studies have pointed out that the warning bells may indeed be ringing for men too, though they may be a bit less definitive that those in case of women. The impact of age on male fertility might not be as drastic as that seen in females; but there are definitely some factors which might influence the decision of men to postpone fatherhood, once they learn more about the lurking suspect called male biological clock.

Scientific evidence is available to prove that the DNA of the sperm weakens with the male ageing. Though it is a known fact that fresh sperm is generated every day in the body, the culprit of genetic weakness of the sperm is the sperm-making mechanism, which loses its competence as the man ages. It can be explained in terms of compromise in the quality of DNA copying process, which becomes defective in older age and the sperms become “stale”.

Here it is essential to compare the process to the female biological clock, where the woman loses her fertility because she is born with a limited egg reserve, while men continue replenishing the sperm supply as long as they live.

Another factor that can influence the sperm quality with age is the fact that older men have been exposed to lifestyle hazards for a longer period as compared to younger ones, consequently, making their sperms weaker. Smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse and exposure to environmental radiation and toxins could be some of the factors that can cause extensive chromosomal damage to sperms over a prolonged period of time.

In recent studies, it has been found out that oxidative damage in older males is the key factor causing breaks in the DNA of the sperms, which can increase the incidence of birth defects in their offspring. In fact, men over 35 years of age have been found to harbor “weaker” sperms due to DNA damage, which means that things start ebbing for them too.

Over a period of time, it has been proved that there is a direct relation between paternal age and increased risk of birth defects in children. These include the risks of mental conditions such as schizophrenia as well as developmental problems like autism. Also, there is a higher risk of the female partners of older men to have miscarriage, even if they are young and healthy. The risk of bearing a child with a birth defect at older age is very small, but it is still there.

Male Biological Clock: Is it a myth or reality?

The question regarding the existence of male biological clock is a rather dicey one. Though there is evidence which proves that sperm quality actually deteriorates with age and also the risk factor of birth defects in offspring of older men is elevated, at the same time, some experts say that men continue churning out “effective” sperms at any age. So there are a number of assumptions but no definitive proof for this one.

At the same time, it would be wise for a man to look after the health of his sperm so that he can be sure about fathering a healthy child at any age. Looking after his overall health and leading a healthy lifestyle is the best way to ensure the health of the sperms too. Balanced diet, moderate daily exercise, abstinence from smoking and alcoholism and minimizing the use of laptops are some of the lifestyle tips to be followed by men. Also, it is important to avoid exposure to environmental toxins, heavy metals, high heat sources such as Jacuzzis and hot tubs and wearing tight clothing, so that the sperms remain adequate and healthy.

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