News broke this past weekend that 72 year old Mick Jagger is expecting a child with his 29 year old ballerina girlfriend Melanie Hamrick. Over the past few days, Jagger’s vitality and fertility have been discussed extensively with one commenter comically suggesting Jagger could be the answer to our energy needs. Most congratulated the rock star but many are aware of the implications of Jagger’s age. Teenage tantrums are no fun in your forties, less so in your eighties, but few have questioned Jagger’s ability to even produce a healthy baby at his age.
One article by Mona Chalabi writing for The Guardian begins to unravel the complexities of male fertility and having a child at an older age. The key point in the article suggests that it is not solely Jagger’s vigour which led to Hamrick’s pregnancy, but rather Hamrick’s age and health. If Hamrick had been in her late thirties, the story may be a very different one.
We know that healthy eggs can repair sperm damage – which may explain Jagger’s supposed vitality. To what extent an egg can repair damaged sperm DNA is yet to be explored fully, but evidence shows that regardless of the egg’s ability to repair sperm, there is a higher risk of miscarriage and childhood disease in children of older fathers (Sharma et al, 2015).
Research is increasing showing us that sperm quality is impacted by age. ‘The idea that robust fertility for a man will continue well past a woman’s decline in fertility is untrue’, notes one study (Harris et al, 2011). The study stated that ‘there is an association between age of the male partner and the incidence of birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities’. Age decreases sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation (damage), which can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, a negative impact on embryonic development and higher chance of childhood disease.
If you are concerned about your age and sperm health, the SpermComet test can identify the extent of DNA damage in your sperm and, working with your fertility doctor, you can make lifestyle choices to improve DNA damage in sperm.
While we congratulate Jagger and Hamrick, research shows that fatherhood in later years is certainly not risk adverse.