How does paternal age affect a baby's health?

Answers from Todd B. Nippoldt, M.D.

While further research is needed, studies suggest that a father's age at the time of conception (paternal age) might pose health risks for his children.

For example, studies have shown that the offspring of men over age 40 might face an increased risk of:

  • Miscarriage. Some research suggests that advanced paternal age is associated with a slightly higher risk of miscarriage.
  • Autism. Research shows a link between advanced paternal age and an increased frequency of autism.
  • Birth defects. Although the overall risk is exceedingly low, older men appear to be more likely to father babies who have certain rare birth defects — such as the bone growth disorder achondroplasia.
  • Schizophrenia. Children born to older men seem to be more likely than children of younger men to develop the brain disorder schizophrenia.

Researchers believe that the increased risk of health conditions might be due to age-related genetic mutations in older men. Despite the increase in these risks, however, the overall risks remain small and less certain than those associated with being born to a woman over age 40.

If you're older than 40 and you're considering fathering a baby or you're concerned about your reproductive health, consult your doctor.

June 19, 2015 See more Expert Answers