After news broke that Al Pacino, a 83-year-old actor, is pregnant with his first child , doctors and medical ethics are both warning against fathering children at an older age.
Noor Alfallah is pregnant with Pacino’s child. The “Scarface’ star has already had three children: Julie Marie, 33 years old, and twins Anton, 22 years old.
Robert De Niro , Pacino’s former co-star and friend, welcomed his seventh child at the age of 79.
Recent research suggests that older men are more likely to have babies who arrive prematurely, or develop birth defects, cancers, or neurodevelopmental disorders. However, the overall risk remains low.
“Older men have been having children since the Bible days. It’s a not new phenomenon. We didn’t realize that they could be producing children with higher risks of problems,” said Arthur Caplan a professor of Medical Ethics at NYU Grossman School.
The medical community has not agreed on a definition for so-called “advanced paternal age”, but the American Urological Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommend to doctors that they talk with men over 40 about the increased risks of adverse health outcomes for their children.
Dr. Gloria Bachmann is the associate dean of women’s health for Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson medical school.
A study from 2019 found that the father’s age can have a major impact on a child’s health and development. A study showed that children born to older dads were at a higher risk for cleft lips or palates, heart defects and other disorders. Further research indicates that paternal advanced age is moderately linked with the most common form childhood leukemia, and linked to a slightly increased risk of non-Hodgkin pediatric lymphoma.
Researchers at Stanford University in 2018 found that babies born with fathers aged 45 and older had 18% higher chances of having seizures, as well as 14% greater odds of being born prematurely compared to babies born with fathers aged 25 to 34.
This study also found a danger for pregnant women: the partners of older men were 28 percent more likely to suffer from gestational diabetic than men aged 25-34.
“The absolute risks remain low.” It may not have the same impact on an individual. If we look at the societal changes, where parents are growing older, it could be a measurable increase of some of these disorders.
Eisenberg stated that men accumulate, on average, two mutations per year in their DNA. This may explain why the health risks of their children increase with age.
In the U.S., men tend to procreate later on average.
Eisenberg analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find that in 1950, 4% of babies were born to fathers older than 40. In 2015, this number was around 9%.
Eisenberg stated that “we’ve seen a doubling of the rates for older fathers.”
Older fathers: some considerations
Caplan says that many older men considering having children don’t get the same reproductive counselling as older women.
He said that there is a system in place to deal with older women wanting to have children, and the risks they pose to their children. This system does not exist for men.
He said that the disparity was rooted in sexism and was amplified by news stories about older male celebrities with children.
There’s a attitude: “This guy is 80. He is still reproducing. Caplan replied, “That’s awesome. Caplan said that the decision to have children later in life should be carefully made with a doctor, taking into consideration a man’s health and financial situation.
He added that there is also the ethical concern of an older father not living long enough to be able to take part in his child’s childhood.
Caplan stated that it’s not good for children to have only one parent.
Bachmann, however, said that age should be just one factor men consider when deciding if they want to have children. She said that some men become better teachers, listeners and role models as they age.
Bachmann stated that “They might be a much better father now at 61 years old than they were at 21.”
She suggested that men who wanted to delay having children consider sperm bank at a younger age if they had the financial resources to do so. She added that older men who are considering fatherhood need to prepare themselves for the possibility that they may not raise their child until adulthood.
Bachmann stated that if an older person becomes a parent the child will need a supportive community who can comfort them and be there for them if one or both of their parents should die.