With the recent New York Magazine cover story making hoopla out of the growing age of first time moms, a recent study out of the department of human genetics at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, shows that men get too old to have kids sans-risk to their offspring too.
The study, published in late September by the Journal of Medical Genetics, reports that men who father children 'late in life' are more likely to pass on gene mutations that cause intellectual disabilities in their children than younger dads do. Children with lower IQs, as well as congenital abnormalities, were found to have "copy number variations" in genes that were handed down by their fathers.
Jayne Hehir-Kwa, author of the study, goes on to say that fathers are more likely than mothers over all to be responsible for gene aberrations. In an interview with WomensHealth.gov, Hehir-Kwa said: "While it is commonly known that the risk of birth defects such as Down Syndrome increases with maternal age, this study shows that an increased paternal age is also an important factor."
It's important to note that it's not just about age when it comes to fertility health for men and women. The Reproductive Science Center of New England states that men are responsible for 40 percent of all fertility problems among American couples. Women are responsible for another 40 percent, and 20 percent are for reasons unknown.
So why is all the pressure (read: judgment) on women for reproductive health and timeliness? Why is the late Tony Randall a king for having children in his late seventies, while women in their forties are often judged irresponsible?
Eight years ago almost to the day, I was heading into synagogue for the Yom Kippur Kol Nidre service, one of the most holiest times of the year for Jews. I noticed an acquaintance, a single guy a couple years older than my 34 years, approach me. As expected, we exchanged Jewish New Year wishes and the unspoken 'I-hope-you-find-love-this-year' glances. Then he said the following which jolted me out of my spiritual consciousness: "I wanted to set you up with this great guy, but you're too old." And with that, he smiled the haughty "I'm-going-to-find-a girl-in-her-twenties-to-marry" smile (which he did at age 40), turned on his heels, and left me standing there. On the Day of Judgment.
No child should suffer intellectual or physical abnormalities linked to his or her parents' DNA. No couple or individual should suffer from infertility if having children is their goal. And no woman should suffer the arrogance of men who feel that they have all the time in the world to have children risk-free -- or the judgment of anyone, man or woman, for when she is (finally) able to have children. It seems more than ever, it truly takes two to tango. For better or for worse.
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