Sunday, December 28, 2008

The "Ticking Clock" and the Mommy/Daddy Double Standard

Lisa WadePosted December 27, 2008 | 12:41 AM (EST) Bloggers' Index
The "Ticking Clock" and the Mommy/Daddy Double Standard
a 34 year-old woman with no discernible desire to have children, I've had it up to here with this ticking clock nonsense. Oh I may change my mind about having kids, but I may not. And if I do, I am not going to suddenly decide that my life is meaningless if I don't get a kid RIGHT NOW. Please.

Part of what bugs me about the ticking clock narrative is that it suggests that only women need to be concerned about the age at which they reproduce. It seems that it is always women's bodies and behaviors that are problematized, while men's go unexamined. For example, Laury Oaks writes about how pregnant women's smoking is stigmatized, but no one ever seems to be concerned about her partner's smoking, even if she passively ingests cigarette smoke day in and day out. It turns out, many pregnant women can't get their partners to quit smoking around them because their partners are assholes. But no one ever calls those guys out for endangering the health and viability of a growing child. In fact, if anything, she get blamed for not "getting away from him." (I grant that Oaks' conclusions are slightly more measured.)

Anyway, a report on a set of studies just came out linking older paternal age to bad outcomes for kids. These studies show that boys with older fathers have lower IQs and higher rates of autism and social awkwardness. They've found a link, also, with older paternal age and the incidence of schizophrenia.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obesity Decreases Sperm Quality

Obesity Decreases Sperm Quality
Wednesday, December 24, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Key concepts: Obesity, BMI and Body weight

(NaturalNews) Men who are obese have lower quality sperm than men of healthy weights, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and presented at the meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona.

Researchers examined the semen of more than 2,000 men who were having trouble conceiving, comparing semen volume, sperm concentration, sperm activity and proportions of abnormal sperm with the men's body mass index (BMI).

BMI, a measure of weight in relation to height, is a commonly used marker of obesity.

Men with a healthy BMI, in the 20 to 25 range, had higher semen volume and lower proportions of abnormal sperm than men who were overweight or obese. This correlation remained significant even after researchers adjusted for other fertility risk factors, including age, alcohol use and smoking.

No effect of obesity was found on sperm activity or concentration.

"Our findings were quite independent of any other factors and seem to suggest that men who are trying for a baby with their partners should first try to achieve an ideal body weight," said lead researcher Ghiyath Shayeb. "This is in addition to the benefit of a healthy BMI for their general well being."

Prior studies have found that obese women are less likely to become pregnant.

Researchers believe that obesity may damage sperm by overheating the testicles or producing abnormal hormone levels. Is also possible that some other lifestyle factor, also linked to obesity, is the true cause of the observed effect.

Shayeb advises that everyone achieve a healthy BMI, whether they plan to conceive or not.

"Adopting a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet, and regular exercise will, in the vast majority of cases, lead to a normal BMI," he said. "We are pleased to be able to add improved semen quality to the long list of benefits that we know are the result of an optimal body weight."

Sources for this story include:


Monday, December 15, 2008

Does a younger dad mean a healthier child?

Does a younger dad mean a healthier child?
Medicine & Health / Health
New studies from Tel Aviv University suggest that waiting until a man can give his son "all the advantages" may have a disadvantage, too.

Tel Aviv University researchers found in several consecutive studies that older dads are more likely to have boys with autism and lower IQs. Most recently, they found that the older a father's age, the greater the chance that his son will display poor social abilities as a teen. Dr. Mark Weiser from TAU's Sackler School of Medicine and his team of researchers are now studying what causes this phenomenon.

"There is a growing body of data showing that an advanced age of parents puts their kids at risk for various illnesses," says Dr. Weiser. "Some illnesses, such as schizophrenia, appear to be more common the older parents get. Doctors and psychologists are fascinated by this, but don't really understand it. We want to know how it works."

Questions and Answers

To explore this important question, Dr. Weiser looked at data collected by the Israeli army. Subjects included more than 450,000 male teens, aged 16 and 17. The teens were asked these questions: How many good friends do you have? Do you have a girlfriend? Do you generally prefer to be with or without a group of friends? How often do you go out on Friday evenings? Do you tend to be at the center of a party?

Controlling for the variables of IQ, mother's age, socioeconomic status and birth order, the researchers found that the prevalence of poor social functioning increased by 50% in boys with fathers 45 years old and up.

Cause for Concern?

Dr. Weiser, who also works at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer hospital, cautions that the results are far from conclusive. "It could be that men with poorer social skills get married later in life, and therefore transmit this characteristic to their boys. But our studies attempted to control for this variable by looking at brothers from the same father," he explains.

He also suggests that older men shouldn't change their minds about having children since the statistical risk is relatively minor. "The effects of a father's age on the health of his son are quite small, and many of the most dramatic effects in this study are driven by dads in their 50s," says Dr. Weiser. "The difference in risk between someone who is 35 or 45 is so small that it's irrelevant."

Dr. Weiser continues, "But the findings are interesting for clinicians who are looking at the bigger picture of how parental age affects the mental functioning of offspring and what mechanisms are at play in that functioning." And Dr. Weiser doesn't rule out the possibility that older fathers may have better resources for getting their boys tested for autism when symptoms arise.

Published in Oxford Journal's Schizophrenia Bulletin, the study builds on Dr. Weiser's previous research on parental age, autism and IQ scores.

Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University


Saturday, December 13, 2008

How new study about fertility risk for men over 35 woke me up to my own biological timebomb

How new study about fertility risk for men over 35 woke me up to my own biological timebomb
By Nic Fleming
Last updated at 9:58 PM on 13th December 2008
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While I have always said I want children, I have rarely felt in a rush to do anything about it.
The joys of nappy changing, parents’ evenings and Center Parc holidays have yet to entice me, at the age of 37, to join the ranks of new fathers among my friends who are increasingly absent from trips to the football and nights in playing Grand Theft Auto on the Xbox.
But my state of responsibility-free bliss has been undermined by a study published in July by French researcher Dr Stephanie Belloc.

Analysing the records of 12,000 couples who attended her fertility clinic in Paris, she found that women whose husbands or boyfriends were aged 35 and above were more likely to have miscarriages than those with younger partners.
Her findings back up a study by Bristol University that found women with partners aged 35 and over were half as likely as those with men aged 24 and younger to conceive within a year.

Sir Paul McCartney, who became a father at 61, and John Humphrys, who did so at 56, are the exceptions, not the rule.
In another study, published two years ago, it was also found that the offspring of men aged 40 and over were nearly six times more likely to suffer from autism than those with fathers under 30.

Other research has found that men aged 50 and over are more likely to have children with Down’s syndrome, or who may develop schizophrenia.
‘I think a man who wants children who has reached 35 should get a move on,’ says Christopher Barratt, professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Dundee.

‘People say I’m not in the right relationship, I haven’t got enough money, or the car isn’t big enough.
‘In reality, you have never quite got what you want. It’s hard to beat biology, and increasingly we are seeing that applies to men as well.’
My fiancee Linda recently turned 30. She enjoys her job as a science journalist, and we have no immediate plans to start a family.

However, I’m starting to wonder whether it is my biological clock rather than hers we should keep track of, which explains how I came to make an appointment to have my semen analysed at Andrology Solutions private fertility clinic in London.
‘In the past it was only women who had maybe focused on their careers - and did not have a partner - who worried about leaving it too late to start a family,’ says Dr Sheryl Homa, the clinic’s scientific director, when I returned two weeks later for my results.
‘But now we’re seeing more men who want to have children but who are not in a relationship and are concerned that time is slipping by.’
Semen analysis involves measuring sperm count, motility - or how lively it is - and its morphology or shape.

Some research suggests older men have semen that contains less sperm, and that their sperm is more likely to be sluggish and abnormally shaped.

However, other studies have failed to detect these effects.
‘Even if semen quality declines with age, it would have to do so a lot before there’s an impact on the ability of a man to conceive,’ says Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology at Sheffield University.
Dr Homa said my count was high and motility was good. In most men, about 80 per cent of sperm cells have abnormalities that mean they have less chance of fertilising an egg.

I have a slightly higher number of such abnormalities.

No one knows why - it could be genetic or it could be down to diet. I am lucky as the effects are balanced out by my high count.
On average, 84 per cent of couples conceive naturally within a year if they have sex regularly without contraception.

National guidelines state that GPs should refer couples for tests, including semen analysis, after a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive.

A man who is simply curious, such as me, has to pay about £75 for a test at a private clinic.
Some scientists believe higher levels of damage in sperm DNA could play an important role in undermining fertility in older men.

In the constant production of sperm cells, a single cell called a gametocyte divides into two, each ‘half’ becoming a new sperm.
During this process - meiosis --genetic material is divided and abnormalities can occur, rendering the new cells unviable.

The older men become, the more likely this is to occur.

Exposure to heat, chemotherapy treatment, radiation, genital tract inflammation, and smoking can also cause DNA damage-Some private clinics offer DNA damage tests, but scientists disagree on which tests are the more accurate and what level of damage triggers infertility.

At £300, such tests are thought to be helpful only in certain specific circumstances.
Men trying for a baby are advised to minimise alcohol intake. The evidence on caffeine is mixed but experts recommend those having more than three drinks of coffee, tea or cola a day should cut back.
There are also links between poor sperm quality and smoking, tight underwear, recreational drugs, anabolic steroids and hot baths.
Folate, one of the B vitamins, is important to women before and during pregnancy.

It is found in foods such as broccoli, sprouts, asparagus, peas and brown rice. It is also believed to be good for sperm quality.
Zinc, contained in meat, shellfish, dairy foods, bread and cereal products, is found in high concentrations in sperm and is needed to make the outer layer and tail of sperm.
I’m in a pensive mood as I leave the clinic clutching my results. I watch a group of young children playing in a park.
Discovering, from the results, that I am able to reproduce is a relief.

Maybe it’s time to eat more greens, throw out the games console and think about putting my fertility to use while I still can.


The biological clock ticks for men too

The biological clock ticks for men too

As Sri Lanka’s pioneering Reproductive Health Centre Vindana celebrates a 10-year success story, Dr. N. Pandiyan, Chief Consultant in Andrology and Reproductive Medicine of Chettinad Health City in India reveals some disturbing statistics on reproduction while pointing out the benefits of Assisted Reproductive Techniques. Kumudini Hettiarachchi reports, Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara
Women should not allow their biological clock to tick if they wish to conceive and have a healthy baby, is repeated over and over again. Put baby before career, for one can always go back to work and catch up on the career but if time passes having a baby may not be possible.

Now comes a strong message that the other vital partner in the making of a baby, the father, too should not leave it too late.

With disturbing statistics that 1 in 6 couples need help in achieving a pregnancy, the advice from Dr. N. Pandiyan, Chief Consultant in Andrology and Reproductive Medicine of Chettinad Health City in India, is indeed timely.

Dr. Pandiyan
“Infertility is an age-related disease of the reproductive system and it is a race against time,” he says, explaining that two factors independently influence the prognosis of infertility – the age of the couple, particularly the woman, but also of the man and the duration of infertility.

Dealing with the age of the father, he points out that men over 40 years old had a “negative effect” on pregnancy, while there was also an increase in the miscarriage rates.

The adverse effects of older fathers include a higher mortality in the offspring of those who are 45 years old or more, with that going into adulthood as well. “Advanced paternal age has been associated with a higher risk of spontaneous miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term birth, congenital malformations, childhood cancer, epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia in the offspring,” says Dr. Pandiyan.

Producing data to prove his point, he says studies on age and incidence of infertility show that those in the age group 20-24 had a 6% incidence of infertility; 25 to 29 -- 9%; 30 to 34 – 15%; 35 to 39 – 30% and 40 to 44 – 64%.

The lifestyle of the father also plays a major role, The Sunday Times understands. Quoting research, Dr. Pandiyan says that obesity increases the risk of male sub-fertility. The use of laptop computers on the lap and cell phones and also stress, have been implicated as possible “causative factors” for male sub-fertility.

Smoking impairs semen parameters and fertility while alcohol abusers have poorer semen samples, according to further research. “Drugs, both medical and recreational, impair male fertility, as does exposure to gonadotoxins from the environment and occupation.”

In the Vindana laboratory: Blood samples taken for testing.
Leaving aside the father’s impact, Dr. Pandiyan goes back to the time, after conception when the baby boy is still a foetus in the mother’s womb.

“Prevention of male sub-fertility starts peri-conceptually,” he explains, adding that healthy mothers give birth to healthy children. “A mother’s micro and macro environment influences the child’s reproductive health. The in-utero environment influences adult life and may also influence the reproductive health of the children.”

Pointing an accusing finger at many environmental contaminants that can affect reproductive health, this expert on andrology zeroes in on “endocrine-disrupting chemicals” which could affect hormones in the human body.

Dr. Pandiyan picks on bisphenol A (BPA) found in hard plastic, water and baby bottles, food containers, the lining of metal, food and drink cans, pacifiers and baby toys and dental sealants. Phthalates, the other culprit according to him, are a family of chemicals utilized to soften plastics used in medical devices, food wrap, flooring, wall coverings, personal care products (perfumes, lotions, cosmetics, hair spray), lacquers, varnishes and wood finishes and coatings.

Environmental contaminants during any life stage can increase the risk of adverse health effects, he says, stressing however that exposure during “susceptible windows” can result in irreversible effects that can have either immediate, lifelong or even intergenerational impacts on health.

“Humans are exposed daily to a mixture of environmental contaminants in air, water, food and consumer products. Environmental tobacco smoke, lead, mercury and phthalates are detected in nearly all members of the population. Melamine has recently been implicated in reproductive and urinary disorders,” he says.

Smoking impairs semen parameters and fertility
In the case of fertility problems, the world has advanced and many couples have experienced the joy of parenthood through Assisted Reproductive Techniques. (ART).

Although as Dr.Pandiyan stresses conception in the privacy of the bedroom is any day better than high-tech ART centres, for some the only hope of holding a baby would come through such techniques which mimic nature or give a helping hand to nature.

Having a baby is an investment

Is having a baby a luxury or a basic necessity? If needy couples have fertility problems should their yearnings for a baby remain unfulfilled with additional heartache being faced due to the barbs of malicious relatives?

If a person wants to buy a car, banks give loans, why shouldn’t the same apply for a much more important life-time investment of having a baby who would grow up to be a person who contributes to society, asks Dr. Pandiyan.

He urges that an insurance or loan scheme be introduced, taking into consideration that fertility issues are similar to any other disease. “Otherwise countries need to follow the Brunei model where the couple pays for the IVF cycle and the government pays for the drugs.”

Assisted Reproductive Techniques are costly because of the high cost of medication, it is learnt. The parents of the first baby born at Vindana underwent ART free of charge, it is understood.

101 babies in 10 years

Ten years and 101 babies later, it was celebration time for the Vindana Reproductive Health Centre last weekend.

While Vindana had invited two of its major supporters during the initial stages, Prof. Ariff Bongso and Dr. N. Pandiyan, to be part of their celebrations, the major focus was in fact a series of workshops to share the knowledge of their multidisciplinary team.

Prof. Seneviratne
Considered one of the foremost scientists on infertility in Asia, Prof. Bongso is Research Professor and Leader of the Reproductive Stem Cell Sciences group in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Co-Leader of the Regenerative Medicine group of the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore.

Vindana can justifiably be proud of its achievements in the past 10 years. Starting with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in 1998 it has expanded to setting up a state-of-the-art sperm bank, egg sharing and also donation programme, Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection using Testicular Sperm Aspiration and pregnancies using frozen and later thawed embryos, to put a smile on the face of couples with fertility issues.

The first IVF pregnancy managed and facilitated by a totally local team, saw the birth of a bouncy baby girl on July 1, 2002. Now she is a pretty six-year-old.

As Vindana steps into its 11th year, its sights are set on expansion into and linkages with affiliated fields such as genetics, molecular biology and in-vitro tissue biology, says its Chairman Prof. Harsha Seneviratne, well-known Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, adding that they will also help any other programme which hopes to assist couples facing fertility issues.


Friday, December 12, 2008

New study backs parent age-autism link

New study backs parent age-autism link

Last Updated: 2008-12-12 9:12:21 -0400 (Reuters Health)

By Anne Harding

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Advanced parental age does indeed appear to boost autism risk in children, and the risk is seen with both mothers and fathers, new research shows.

"What we found was that actually it's both parents age, and when you control for one parent's age you still see the effect of the other parent's age, and vice versa," Dr. Maureen Durkin of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, the lead researcher of the study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, told Reuters Health.

The findings may offer clues to understanding the causes of autism and why it's on the rise, but they shouldn't be used to guide family planning decisions, Durkin said. Even though the oldest child born to two older parents is three times as likely to be autistic than a middle or youngest child with younger parents, she explained, there's still a 97 percent chance that the higher-risk child will be perfectly fine. "The vast majority of children don't develop autism," she emphasized.

Several studies have suggested links between a father's age or the age of both parents and a child's likelihood of having autism. The current study included twice as many autism cases as any other research on this issue to date, which made it possible to tease out the effects of both maternal and paternal age.

The researchers looked at 253,347 children born in 1994 at 10 sites included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. There were 1,251 children who met standard criteria for an autism spectrum disorder at age 8 for whom information on both parents' age was available.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Older paternal age and fresh gene mutation: data on additional disorders.

J Pediatr. 1975 Jan;86(1):84-8.Related Articles, Links
Older paternal age and fresh gene mutation: data on additional disorders.

Jones KL, Smith DW, Harvey MA, Hall BD, Quan L.

Older paternal age has previously been documented as a factor in sporadic fresh mutational cases of several autosomal dominant disorders. In this collaborative study, an older mean paternal age has been documented in sporadic cases of at least five additional dominantly inheritable disorders; the basal cell nevus syndrome, the Waardenburg syndrome, the Crouzon syndrome, the oculo-dental-digital sysdrome, and the Treacher-Collins syndrome. It was also found to be a factor in acrodysostosis and progeria, suggesting a fresh mutant gene etiology for these two conditions in which virtually all cases have been sporadic and the mode of genetic etiology has been unknown.

Publication Types:
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

PMID: 1110452 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Monday, December 01, 2008

Paternal age: are the risks of infecundity and miscarriage higher when the man is aged 40 years or over?

Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique. 2005 Nov;53 Spec No 2:2S47-55.Related Articles, Links
Paternal age: are the risks of infecundity and miscarriage higher when the man is aged 40 years or over?

De La Rochebrochard E, Thonneau P.

Unité Inserm-Ined 569, Hôpital de Bicêtre, 82, rue du Général-Leclerc, 94276 Le Kremlin-Bicêtre.

BACKGROUND: Maternal age of 35 years or over is a well-known risk factor for human reproduction that has been extensively investigated by demographers and epidemiologists. However, the possibility of a paternal age effect has rarely been considered. We carried out review of the literature to investigate the effect of paternal age on the risks of infecundity and miscarriage. METHODS: We carried out a MEDLINE search and checked the exhaustiveness of our reference list. RESULTS: We identified 19 articles analysing the effect of paternal age. Epidemiological studies provided evidence that paternal age older than 35-40 years affects infecundity. However, the few studies based on data from assisted reproductive techniques (especially IVF with ovum donation) do not confirm this finding. All studies analysing the effect of paternal age on the risk of miscarriage showed an increased risk in men aged 35-40 years or over. Other studies have shown some evidence for a paternal age effect on late foetal deaths. CONCLUSION: The risks of infecundity and miscarriage increase with paternal age. Two main hypotheses can be considered. First, these risks increase after the age of 35-40 years. However, a later paternal age effect (after 45-50 years) cannot be excluded. Second, due to the interaction of the ages of the two partners, the risks of infecundity and miscarriage may be higher when both partners are older (woman aged 35 years or over and man aged 40 years or over).

Publication Types:

PMID: 16471144 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]



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