Older Parents

“The increasing age of would be parents combines with escalating toxic environmental threats, nutritional deficiencies and stress to form a potent brew that adversely affects fertility and foetal health.”
Francesca Naish 2008

Age Issues for fertility

  • Reduced number of ova and hormone levels
  • Reduced mitochondrial function in ova and sperm
  • Reduced nutritional status
  • Increased exposure to toxins such as chemical s, heavy metals, radiation, drugs etc over a longer life span

Toxicity is the biggest risk for Downs Syndrome

8 out of 10 downs syndrome babies are born to mothers under 35; there is actually more evidence to link it with toxicity and deficiencies of folate, zinc and selenium, rather than age.

Older dads have increased risk of children with neurological issues

DNA damage in men over 45 was double that of men under 30. Sperm cells accumulate mutations as men age, potentially leading to greater risk of brain abnormalities. One study showed children born of men over 40 are 6 x as likely to be autistic than is dad is under 30.

Some Authors have linked increased paternal age with lower intelligence scores and schizophrenia

Dads health affects the health of the pregnancy

Paternal age increases miscarriage risk, with men over 40 having a 60% greater risk than men under 29. Men aged over 35 have 3 times the risk of miscarriage as men under 25. There is also a greater risk for pre eclampsia (high blood pressure in the pregnancy) for older dads.

Older parents take longer to conceive

Fertility in general declines with age, one study showed it took 32 months for dads over 50 to conceive, compared to 6 months for a man under 20. In women, age has been acknowledged as a risk factor for fertility, miscarriage, premature and stillbirth, poor foetal and infant health

Women under 30 have a 40% chance of conceiving within a year, where for women by 45 it has dropped to 10%. Miscarriage risk is 10% at age 20, rising to 50% at 45. Stillbirth rates increase by 4, comparing mothers under 35 to those after 40. Women over 40 are 2-3 x as likely to have premature and/or low birth weight babies than if under 29. Downs syndrome risk is 1 in 1500 at 20 years, 1 in 30 at 45.

Generation effects can be seen where daughters of older mothers have been shown to have higher risks of fertility problems.

Ovarian reserve

Women are born with 2,000,000 eggs, lose 90% by puberty, have approx 50,000 left at 20 and 10,000 at 40. Female fertility as assessed by reserve of good eggs, is fairly stable to 30, halved by 35 and halved again by 40. Fertility problems are due to the deterioration of the egg quality, particularly due to toxin exposure and poor nutrition. Older mothers are more likely to obese, hypertensive etc and so increase their risks of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia

Preconception care is essential for older parents to create healthy babies

Although time seems so important and it is difficult to rationalise taking 4 months to prepare before trying it is even more important for older couples. Preconception care can make a significant difference to risk of age related problems such as infertility, miscarriage and congenital defects. Preliminary results from the Jocelyn Centre show that 52% of previously infertile couples can conceive within the 1 st 4 months after Preconception health care. Foresight study also showed good results from Preconception care for older couples.


IVF is often seen as the remedy of first resort, but artificial reproductive technology conception rates for older couples are lower than those for natural conceptions! With higher risks for miscarriage and foetal health. One study showed that IVF conception rates were 28% at 40, 10% at 43 and 0% at 46.


Samantha Warner Naturopath

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