Besides the usual, being financially ready and willing to put your kids first here’s also more on when..
The right amount of gray for a first-time dad.
Last week, it looked like late-bloomer dads had a reason to brag: A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that fathers who wait until later in life to have children pass on DNA with longer telomeres, which promote slower aging and ward off illnesses later in life. The bad news? Waiting too long to have kids also comes with risks that may outweigh those benefits.
“Genetic problems come in a U-shaped curve during a man’s life,” says Harry Fisch, M.D., clinical professor of Urology and Reproductive Medicine at Weil Cornell Medical College . “When you’re very young—say 15 or 16 years old—your body is still making new sperm and can cause more stillbirths, like a male miscarriage.” Once you hit 30, he says, testosterone levels begin to drop by one percent each year. By your mid-30s, mutations begin to occur within the DNA.
Fisch explains that testicles reproduce millions of sperm, but somewhere around the 300th to 500th replication (during your mid-30s), the DNA copy comes out a little shoddier with an error or two. As you age, the genetic abnormalities build. (Learn 3 Tips to Build Stronger Sperm.)
According to the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, you have a 1.5 times greater risk of having a child with autism in your 30s, and the chance increases five-fold in your 40s. Meanwhile, the chance for schizophrenia doubles when you’re 40 and triples at 50. As you near 40, increased risks also include bipolarity, epilepsy, prostate cancer and breast cancer. And a 2005 study at the University of California in Los Angeles found that babies born to men 50 and older (whose wives are at least 35) are four times more likely to have a child with Down Syndrome. But every man is different.
“Some biological clocks tick faster than others,” says Fisch. “If you have a belly, your body will deteriorate at a faster pace.” Try this: Measure your waist size at your belly button. If it’s more than half of your height, you better start thinking about having kids sooner than later, Fisch says. “What’s bad for the heart is bad for the penis.” The same goes for smokers, dopers, hot-tubbers, and those with small testicles.
The moral: Just like women, it’s time to start thinking about kids when you turn 30. Fisch typically recommends trying even earlier in your late 20s, but having a healthy baby at age 40 is absolutely possible.