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Monday, October 15, 2007

Health - Male Fertility

Historically, it's always been the woman's fault if a couple tries, and fails, to have a child, or even a whole passel of children. The "curse of a barren womb" was, I think, the term of art. Of course, such a mindset completely ignored the many people who were only too happy not to have children, not to mention the many totally unfit parents we still have among us.

However, that was before reproduction was something other than the mindless satisfaction of a biological urge. Admittedly, there are still those who have no access to reproductive control, or choose not to use it. But we, as a species, are getting close to the time when every child is a wanted child. And if you have ever interacted with an unwanted child, you realize just what a blessing contraception is.

One thing that we are finding: Infertility is not necessarily the fault of the female partner in a heterosexual relationship. Another thing: All behaviours have reproductive consequences regardless of the gender of the person indulging in such behaviours.

Until fairly recently, it was assumed that women who planned to have children (and really, what woman didn't? Except, of course, for bitter old maids who hadn't found a man to love them, or had abnormal uterii or cerebra) had to be scrupulous about their behaviour for fear of finding their reproductive capabilities diminished.

Fucking around could lead to STDs, which could render a woman sterile. Smoking could lead to cot death. Abortion could leave her uterus inhospitable to the future sacred fetus. Alcohol could result in developmental disorders of the sprog. Yadda-yadda-yadda. You get the picture. Note: The link to Lifesite about the future sacred fetus is completely bogus and should not be perused unless you're looking for amusement.

Only now are we hearing about all the things that men can do to destroy or impair their fertility. For example, while cot death has undeniable links to pregnant smokers, exposure to cigarette smoke after after birth is even more dangerous. Sez Auntie Beeb:
He found that for every hour a newborn was exposed to tobacco smoke, the risk increased.
So even if the woman does not smoke, if her husband, partner, parents, flatmates, or even landlords smoke, the risk to the infant exists and grows by the hour after birth.

Alan S. Brown and Catherine A. Schaefer warn in Am.J.Psychiatry:
Researchers estimate that compared to a male fathering a child in his early 20's - there is double the chance of the child getting schizophrenia when the father is age 40, and triple the risk of schizophrenia when the father is age 50. (though, for most people this means the risk goes from approximately 1 in 121 when a man is 29, to to 1 in 47 when a man is age 50 to 54).
The Washington Post recently published an article claiming that paternal age was directly linked to incidence of autism.
With every decade of advancing age starting with men in their teens and twenties, the new study found, older fathers pose a growing risk to their children when it comes to autism -- unhappy evidence that the medical risks associated with late parenthood are not just the province of older mothers, as much previous research has suggested.

Of special concern is the finding that the risk for autism not only increases with paternal age but also appears to accelerate.

When fathers are in their thirties, children have about 1 1/2 times the risk of developing autism of children of fathers in their teens and twenties. Compared with the offspring of the youngest fathers, children of fathers in their forties have more than five times the risk of developing autism, and children of fathers in their fifties have more than nine times the risk.
Diabetes can reduce a man's fertility. Hot baths or hot tubs can impair sperm counts. Keep your laptop away from your goonies or risk childlessness. No more tight underwear or swimwear, you might damage the Sacred Sperm. And forget that tropical holiday interspersed with rolling in the hay as a babymaking aid.

While I can't help feeling annoyed by the increased nannyism in favour of the Sacred Sprog, it might help men to develop an inkling of the tremendous invasiveness society feels entitled to practise upon women in their reproductive years. Pretty soon, we'll have a professional breeder class who will not be permitted to drink, smoke, do drugs, holiday in the sun, wear tight clothing, or attempt trophy offspring at advanced ages for their ego-gratification.

I say, freeze the repro bits and go out and sow your wild oats. Then when you're good and ready, and if we haven't all killed each other and the earth off yet, you can settle down to reproduce at leisure.

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