Let’s be Real about George Clooney’s Pregnancy
When the world found out that George Clooney, age 55, was going to be a father of twins, the internet literally swooned. Matt Damon almost started crying. My phone blew up with questions about whether I thought they did IVF or not.
When Janet Jackson’s pregnancy news became public, the internet exploded but in a different way. Everyone was extremely focused on her age. Several articles were written about the dangers of pregnancy in women at 50. I was quoted in articles and made TV appearances talking about it too.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Why is the world silent about the risk of advanced paternal age? Why aren’t we talking about George Clooney’s age? We had no problem labeling 50-year-old Janet Jackson as “old.” And even before Janet Jackson had her baby, we learned about several other older male mega stars with pregnancy and delivery news: Jay Z at the age of 47 is expecting twins with his 35-year-old wife Beyoncé, and Mick Jagger age 73 just had a baby with his 29-year-old girlfriend. Mel Gibson age 62 with his 26-year-old girlfriend just had another baby too.
It’s awesome that celebrities are sharing their IVF stories. Fertility doctors should take the same opportunity to teach the public about pregnancy risks in older fathers in light of the recent celebrity pregnancies in the same way that we educated people about risks in older mothers with Janet Jackson’s pregnancy news.
Here’s the real deal:
1. While an older man may still be able to conceive, the risk of complications, such as miscarriages and birth defects goes up significantly. Many men assume that previous paternity means current fertility but that’s a huge myth.
2. Pregnancies from older fathers also have a higher rate of autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, ADD, ADHD and depression.
3. Extremely rare genetic imprinting disorders like Angelman Syndrome and Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome are also linked to older fathers.
Here’s what you can do to understand YOUR personal risk:
1. Do a fertility sperm gene test. This test called Seed can help you understand what’s going on with your sperm DNA. Understanding the genetic abnormalities before you try to conceive will give you the information you need to make a decision about your personal path to pregnancy. The Seed fertility test is something every older father-to-be should take. This test looks deeper than a semen analysis to provide insights into sperm function. It can uncover potential problems with male factor infertility or poor embryo development, even when sperm counts look normal. This means that an otherwise healthy older man still might have fertility problems hiding in his DNA. There’s no time to waste for an older couple on the journey to parenthood.
2. See a male fertility expert like Dr. Paul Turek aka “the Sperm Whisperer.” A fertility minded urologist can analyze the “sperm data” and guide you about your options including sperm aspiration, PICSI and donor sperm.
3. Doing a basic semen analysis can teach you about the speed of your swimmers but it doesn’t tell you much more than that.
My goal for every patient is to uncover potential problems upfront rather than wait for problems to be revealed by unsuccessful fertility treatments. Women are used to being blamed for everything. When we can’t get pregnant we blame ourselves. When IVF isn’t successful, it’s because of bad eggs. Science is guiding us better now. It doesn’t just take one sperm cell to make a healthy pregnancy. It takes a good sperm cell with healthy DNA to make a healthy baby.
Here’s what you can do to be proactive:
1. Freeze sperm! Since we know sperm DNA matters and older age affects sperm DNA, do a sperm freeze while you’re young. Women lose 90% of their eggs by age 30 however men keeping making sperm beyond age 50. There isn’t a consensus about the definition of advanced paternal age but most scientists seem to agree that it is over 50. I think we should raise awareness for paternal age over 35 too.
2. If you needed fertility treatment to get pregnant for baby number one, I hope that you won’t for baby number two but freeze sperm in case you will need more IUIs or IVF cycles to grow your family. And if your partner is pregnant after IUI , freeze enough sperm at your younger age in case you may need to do IUI again for baby number two. If you did IVF and you don’t have leftover embryos to grow your family, remember to freeze sperm too.
3. To give yourself your highest chances of success as an older father, take care of your overall health and take great care of yourself. Avoid diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity by living your best life ever. Avoid binge drinking, heavy marijuana use and “sperm killers” aka cigarettes. Your sperm health is a peek into your overall general health.
Just because Mick Jagger did it at age 73, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
Learn about your DNA through the Seed test to make sure you are taking the right path to pregnancy. If you aren’t a father yet and are getting close to 35, put some sperm on ice. If you’re already a father and considering a larger family be proactive and freeze now!