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One recent study by Stanford University Medical Center found that babies fathered by older men, particularly those ages 45 and older, are more likely to be born prematurely, underweight, or have breathing problems than babies born to younger men.
Researchers analyzed the records of more than 40 million births in the United States between 2007 and 2016. They divided the babies' fathers into five age groups ranging from younger than 25 to older than 55. Then they studied the babies' health in each group, taking into account other influencing factors such as the mom's age.
Overall, the older the father, the greater the risk for health problems, according to the findings published in the BMJ. In fact, the researchers estimated that 13 percent of premature births and 14 percent of low infant birth weight cases could be prevented if all men decided to have kids before age 45.
That doesn't mean that all older men are going to have babies with health issues. Overall, the risk for these problems is still low, even for dads over 45, says co-author Michael Eisenberg. Still, he told Time magazine, it's something men should consider when planning to have kids.
Even if you're a spry 20- or 30-something male, another factor can seriously impact your babies' health: smoking. While research has shown that smoking is bad for babies when pregnant women do it, fathers-to-be who smoke may also be putting their unborn child's health at risk, according to an analysis published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
After reviewing 125 studies involving more than 137,000 babies, scientists found that smoking by both men and women during a pregnancy increases children's risk of having congenital heart defects. When men smoked during a woman's pregnancy, the risk of defects rose a whopping 74 percent compared to non-smoking couples, even if the mom didn't smoke herself. It's likely the non-smoking moms-to-be were exposed to passive smoking from their partners, the researchers said.
It's never too late to quit smoking and kick other bad habits that may impact your child's health. For some tips and ideas, check out these diet changes for dads to boost fertility, resources for quitting smoking during pregnancy, and steps you can take for a healthy pregnancy.
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