Doctor Says 18-Year-Olds Should Freeze Sperm To Prevent Birth Complications Later In Life

Doctor Says 18-Year-Olds Should Freeze Sperm To Prevent Birth Complications Later In Life

While it’s a well-known fact that women indeed have a biological clock that ticks quite loudly as they get older, could it be true that men face similar pressure? One doctor from the UK believes that without a question, they do.

Dr. Kevin Smith of Britain’s Abertay University says that the older a man is, the more likely he is to have children with genetic deformities. The solution? Freeze your sperm, and you should probably be doing it around 18 years old.

Smith wrote in the Journal of Medical Ethics that freezing sperm in sperm banks should “become the norm,” if men are planning to be fathers later in life. He cites the statistic that in the UK men are becoming fathers at older ages, the average age increasing from 31 in the 1990s to 33 now. The Washington Post also mentioned that this trend is increasing in the United States as well; men used to have children at about 25.3 years old in 1987, but this changed between 2006 and 2010 to 27.4 years old.

“It's time we took seriously the issue of paternal age and its effect on the next generation of children,” Smith said. He believes that by banking sperm, men who plan on becoming “older dads” can use the sperm from their younger, more fertile selves to reduce the risks of complications.

However appealing the idea of saving your youthful sperm for later may sound, medical professionals and men alike are finding issue with this. The BBC estimates that it costs about the equivalent of $235-$314 to keep sperm privately, which can really add up if you put sperm in the bank at age 18, but don’t decide to become a father until your 30s.

The most outspoken against Smith’s insurance plan is Allan Pacey, a professor at the University of Sheffield focused on male health. "This is one of the most ridiculous suggestions I have heard in a long time,” said Pacey to BBC. "We know that the sperm from the majority of men won't freeze very well, which is one of the reasons why sperm donors are in short supply." Pacey added that the risks, as he knew them, of older fathers passing on defective genes was relatively low. In fact, some studies believe children of older fathers have stronger DNA.

Pacey also voiced concerns many men are having, stating that this form of birth is not only unnatural, but that the partners of these men who do decide to put sperm in the bank will have to undergo multiple IVF procedures in order to get pregnant.

Professor Adam Balen, chairmen of the British Fertility Society, took Pacey’s point one step further saying, “technology does not guarantee a baby.” The British Fertility Society also pointed out that frozen sperm tends to be less fertile than some believe. They feel the solution is to provide better for young couples; if the government initiated familial support to couples who decide to have children earlier, the trend can be reversed.

Although a little shocking, Smith’s point does not come without evidence. In fact, a 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry stated that becoming a father later on in life increases the risk of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism in offspring. Another study reported by LiveScience found that older fathers have a substantially higher chance of passing on genetic mutations.

“A 36-year-old father gives twice more new mutations to his child than a 20-year-old father does,” says Kari Stefansson, a researcher from Reykjaavik, Iceland. “And a 50-year-old father gives about four times the number of mutations. This is not a subtle effect — this is a very, very large effect. And it increases the probability that a mutation may strike a gene that is very important, which can lead to a disease.”

While this point of debate has many scientists choosing sides, most agree that the highest risk of complications come from fathers 45 years or older. So don’t run to the bank just yet, young dads-to-be, your clock isn’t ticking too loudly after all.

Source: Smith K. Paternal age bioethics. Journal of Medical Ethics. 2015.

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