'The thought of having children in my 60s fills me with horror', fertility expert warns of the dangers for older fathers like Ronnie Wood

'The thought of having children in my 60's fills me with horror', fertility expert warns of the dangers for older fathers

Proud parents: Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and wife Sally Humphreys

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood has fathered twins at a stage in life when most people are already collecting their old-age pension. But with an increased risk of health complications, one leading men's fertility expert says that the "thought of having children in my 60s fills me with horror". 

Musician Wood became a father to twin girls on Tuesday at the age of 68. Their mother, Wood's wife Sally Humphreys, is 38.

Along with being unlikely to be around to see your child grow up, the British Fertility Society's Professor Allan Pacey warns of other dangers for children born to older fathers.

"There are links between some health conditions in children and the age of their father," Professor Pacey told Julia Hartley-Brewer.

"It's complicated and it's controversial, but in the few studies that have been done, if you plot a graph showing the incidence of autism as a function of father's age then there's a steep rise in the curve once the father gets above the age of 50.

"By the time the sperm production process gets into the 40s or 50s it starts to get less efficient and errors start to creep in to the production. 

"We also know the risk of miscarriage in women also increases as a function of the father's age, and that's probably because there's something wrong with those sperm.

"If you're in a position to do so, men and women should be having their children in probably their early to mid-30s. 

"We only begin to see changes in the health of children as a function of dad's age once they get above 40 or 45."

Pacey, who is professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, said that there are also double standards at play when it comes to older parenting. 

"It's slaps on the back and cigars all round when men father a child in their older age," he said. 

"But we seem to sneer, society seems to sneer, when older women have children at a much younger age by comparison - in their 40s for example.

"Personally the thought of having children in my 60s fills me with horror."