I read an article in the Weekend Australian Magazine dated May 16th – 17th 2009, which has profound ramifications for those women (and their partners) struggling with their fertility.
A recent University of Queensland study showed that children born to older fathers have, on average, lower scores of tests of intelligence than those born to younger dads.
Data analysed from more than 33,000 American children showed that the older the man when the child is conceived, the lower a child’s score is likely to be on tests of concentration, memory, reasoning, and reading skills.
A Swedish study reveals further, that the risk of schizophrenia begins to rise for those babies whose fathers were older than 29 and is higher if they are older than 55. The same age factor applies with the risk of bipolar.
Perhaps not surprising if we consider that ageing affects every cell in the body and has no gender bias. Somehow the perceptions around fertility as solely a female issue need rethinking. Men are part of the equation, and not just the pleasure part!
Sperm are not ageless, nor are they bullet-proof. Production of healthy sperm is dependant on the well-being of the man – a poor diet, stress and a toxic overload in the body, due to excess alcohol and smoking, dramatically affects the quality of a man’s sperm. So too, it is now confirmed, does ageing. If the little blighters have no tails, poor motility, are immature or are low in number, a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant are dramatically reduced. Similarly, if she falls pregnant the baby she bears will be less than optimally healthy, regardless of how ‘in the pink’ she is .
Due to the cringe factor, many women take sole responsibility for fertility. Furthermore, it is women who ‘hold the time lines and calendars in our heads, who have to surrender space in our bodies and clear time in our lives’. Women are the ones who have to juggle their careers, or settle for a partner who may be less than ideal because their biological clock is ticking over. Mainstream medicine has long discouraged ‘older’ females from having babies. In this sense and more, women have been long held responsible for the ultimate health of their child.
Tables may turn when women are armed with this information about sperm ageing. No longer does the image of the older man with a younger woman on his arm seem so attractive, if older men are liable to be seen as past their fertility ‘use-by date’ by women.
The stereotype has always been that while older women just get old, men become more ‘distinguished’ with age. Women might find that, when they tune into their feminine intelligence, biologically inscripted to select the genetically best father for their offspring, they might now take age into account as well. Men may be forced to stick with women of their own age, because the biological drive of younger females to conceive under optimum conditions, puts them out into the grazing paddock.
We are in this together, males and females. Let’s stack the deck so that when all the cards are on the table, both genders are realistically appraised, without a bias that puts one on top of the pile, in favour of the other. Goodness knows, in the interests of evolution of the race, each succeeding generation must improve on the one before it.
For that to happen both men and women need to evaluate their health and well-being and make choices that ensure optimum chance for survival and thrival of their offspring, prior to conception.