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Is 42 too old to have a baby for a man?

Having a baby is a big life decision at any age. When you’re older, you need to consider your health, your partner’s health, and the implications of having a child later in life. So is 42 too old for a man to become a new dad?

The risks of having a baby after age 35

Historically, women have borne the brunt of scrutiny when it comes to having children later in life. But more recently, research has begun looking at how a man’s age affects fertility, pregnancy, and the health of the child.

We know that women’s fertility declines steadily after age 35 and more rapidly after 40. Men also experience a decline in fertility with age, but it’s usually more gradual than women’s. Still, by age 42, a man’s fertility has dropped about 20% from where it was in his early 20s.

Some key risks for older fathers include:

  • Lower sperm quality: Impaired shape and motility of sperm
  • DNA mutations in sperm: Higher rate of genetic abnormalities
  • Congenital disabilities: Increased risk of certain birth defects and disorders
  • Miscarriage: Somewhat higher risk of pregnancy loss for partner
  • Preterm birth: Moderately elevated risk of premature delivery

Let’s look at how a man’s age can impact each of these factors.

Lower sperm quality

Semen samples from older men tend to have lower sperm counts, less motile (actively swimming) sperm, and more sperm with abnormal shapes. Each of these parameters impacts fertility.

In one study analyzing semen samples from nearly 12,000 men, sperm concentration decreased continuously with age. Samples from men age 45 and older contained 25-50% less sperm compared to men in their early 20s.

DNA mutations

The older a man is, the more cell divisions his sperm-producing cells have gone through over his lifetime. With each division, there are more opportunities for errors and mutations to occur during DNA copying.

Studies have confirmed that sperm from older men have substantially higher rates of DNA damage and chromosomal abnormalities compared to younger men.

Birth defects and disorders

Some congenital conditions are more common in children born to older fathers, including:

  • Down syndrome
  • Dwarfism
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Skeletal abnormalities
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Cleft palate
  • Mental health disorders like autism and schizophrenia

The risk of autism alone is believed to increase by 10-30% for every 10 years of paternal age over 30.


Most studies show a moderate association between advanced paternal age and miscarriage risk for a man’s partner. One meta-analysis found that men over age 40 had a 1.29 times higher odds of pregnancy loss compared to men under 30.

Preterm birth

Preterm delivery, defined as birth before 37 weeks of gestation, is also more common with an older father. A systematic review found that fathers aged 45 and older had a 1.24 times higher risk of preterm birth versus fathers aged 25-30.

Experts believe the increased chromosomal abnormalities and mutations in older fathers’ sperm help explain most of these elevated pregnancy risks.

Health implications for the father

Your chronological age as a dad doesn’t necessarily determine your fitness level or life expectancy. But statistics showing life expectancy can provide general guidelines.

According to the Social Security Administration, a 42-year-old man today can expect to live on average until about age 80. This means you’d likely get about 38 years with your child if having one at age 42.

Your individual health has a big impact, too. The healthier you are, the lower your biological age tends to be compared to your chronological age. Focusing on lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management can help minimize your health risks and extend your lifespan.

However, it’s important to be realistic about your energy level and physical capabilities if having a child later in life. Chasing around a toddler in your 40s or playing sports with your teen in your 50s requires extra effort.

Being an older dad also means facing a higher chance of developing age-related health conditions like heart disease or diabetes while your child is still dependent on you. So staying active and getting preventive care become even more essential.

Ask your partner how they feel

When considering parenthood at any age, your partner’s perspective is just as important as your own. Have candid discussions about both your readiness and concerns.

For a female partner, waiting until later to start a family has its own implications around fertility, pregnancy risks, and post-birth recovery. Make sure you fully understand a woman’s physical and emotional viewpoint before making joint decisions.

A relationship with an age gap can magnify differences in your outlook or goals for having kids. But open communication and consideration for each other’s needs help couples work through this.

Think about your future relationship with your child

As an older dad, your situation will be different from a younger father’s in several ways:

  • You’ll be enjoying retirement and leisure when your kids are just starting their careers and adult lives.
  • You may eventually need support from your children when health issues arise later in life.
  • Your children will likely get to know your grandchildren, but you may not.

This doesn’t have to be a negative outlook, but it’s important to align your expectations. Adult children say one of the biggest challenges of having older parents is anxiety about losing them early.

Focus on building strong bonds and being present with your kids throughout childhood to help set them up for life without feeling like they’re missing out.

Consider your current support network and financial situation

Raising children is a tremendous investment of time and money under any scenario. As an older parent, you’ll need to evaluate if you have the resources and backup necessary.

Critical questions to ask yourself include:

  • Do you have family nearby who can help out regularly with childcare?
  • Does your budget allow room for the high costs of diapers, healthcare, education, extracurriculars, etc?
  • Could you provide adequate financial support for your child’s university costs?
  • Do you have good health insurance and life insurance policies in place?
  • Would your child be taken care of if something happens to you or your partner while they still depend on you?

For many older fathers, being a bit further along in their careers can make handling some of these expenses more feasible.

Talk to your doctor about health screening

Before trying to conceive, meet with your healthcare provider to discuss any underlying medical conditions and recommended health screening.

Your doctor may advise screening tests related to:

  • Heart health
  • Diabetes
  • Prostate cancer
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Sperm quality

Undergoing a thorough physical and sharing your full family medical history allows your provider to offer personalized counsel about parenthood at your age.

If your partner is over 35, she should also receive preconception guidance due to increased maternal age pregnancy risks.

Explore your options beyond natural conception

You may choose to try conceiving naturally for a period of time before considering other alternatives. But know that you have options if you need them.

Fertility assistance through intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) can help overcome lower sperm count or quality. Preimplantation genetic testing on embryos is also available to reduce the chances of abnormalities.

Another path is using donor sperm from a younger man. Depending on personal preferences, this allows you to have a child that is still biologically related to your partner.

Finally, adoption or foster parenting present meaningful ways to become a dad and form a family at any age. You may find the screening process requires extra time and paperwork compared to younger applicants, but it’s still possible.

Every family is different

There are always pros and cons when deciding if your 40s are the right time to start fatherhood. The most important part is choosing what feels right for you based on your life circumstances and values.

While increased health risks exist compared to younger dads, outcomes are largely based on each man’s individual health status. Plenty of men in their 40s and even 50s go on to have healthy children and long, active lives as parents.

With realistic expectations, practical preparations, and open communication, becoming a dad at 42 can absolutely be an incredibly rewarding experience.


Men are having children later in life than past generations, so debates over advanced paternal age are likely to continue. While more research on potential risks is still needed, the available evidence to date does show elevated concerns for fathers over 40.

However, each family has a different perspective regarding what risks or tradeoffs they may be willing to accept. The average life expectancy of around 80 years for a 42-year-old man means most still have a few decades to spend with a new child.

Staying healthy and active as an older dad, screening for potential genetic issues, and utilizing reproductive technologies when available can help mitigate risks.Good communication, realistic expectations, and strong support systems will also make the transition to later-in-life fatherhood more smooth.

There’s no universally right or wrong answer about the ideal time to have kids. Ultimately, the rewards of parenthood can come at any age when the circumstances feel right for your unique family situation.