Biological clocks: They tick for you too, guys

A new study on declining male fertility.

Published May 30, 2006 8:32PM (EDT)

Another study says men's fertility, like women's, declines with age. According to a Reuters article on MSNBC, French researchers have found that the late Tony Randall notwithstanding, male fertility appears to decline after the age of 40, much as female fertility does around age 35.

This particular study is new, but it's hardly the first to come to similar conclusions.

The researchers state -- as have others before them -- that "in reproduction, age must no longer be considered as the concern of the woman, but as that of the couple."

I can't say that any story about declining fertility (or increased risk of birth defects with age) makes me happy. But the more we are reminded that infertility is not just "her problem," the better. Estimates these days, apparently, are that one-third of fertility issues can be traced to the male, one-third to the female and the rest to both. Still, I occasionally hear of physicians who send women for complete fertility workups months before asking their partners for a sperm sample. Outside the doctor's office, and perhaps more prevalent, there also persists the image of women delaying motherhood because they're "picky" (N.B., "picky," about the person with whom they'll spend their life and raise a child) or "focusing on their careers" while legions of able-spermed men wait around for them to commit and reproduce.

Obviously, none of these misperceptions does anyone any favors. Women wind up feeling responsible for failures that aren't their "fault"; and for their part, the less men feel that their fertility issues are equally "normal," the more they've got to deal with unnecessary guilt and shame. But with additional studies like these -- and, as an aside, more studies about environmental causes of infertility -- we'll start to see that infertility is everyone's problem.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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