US presidential hopeful John McCain had the first of his three children when he was was 48, Tony Blair at 47, and Michael Douglas became dad at 56, but now it seems these famous men also got lucky in the bed. A new landmark study has found that like women, men’s ages play a key role in a couple’s chances of having a baby. Simply put, the biological clock ticks for men as well as women. If the man is over 35, their partner has a higher risk of failing to get pregnant and miscarrying, regardless of her age. By the time men are 45, the odds of their partner miscarrying doubles. The gradual fall in the quality of the sperm produced is the reason for the more misses than hits.
The shattering of this biological bias favouring men caused more heartburn than I expected. It seems the discovery added to the existing “issues” and burdened men already buckling under performance anxiety and obsessing over sperm motility. “You should be happy you don’t have to worry about paternity lawsuits,” I tried to tell an inconsolable friend. “Women,” I was told, “are not the only ones who want children. Men have feelings too, and cherish dreams of becoming a dad.” Abashed, I suggested he consider having a child soon. “Are you mad? I’m just 38! How will I sleep late with a bawling baby at home!” So much for fatherhood! I suggested he freeze his sperms to ensure he becomes a dad whenever he wants, and he promptly started googling for the contact details of sperm banks.
It’s ironical that the news that dad has a ‘best by’ date came almost on the eve of World Population Day on July 11. It was perhaps a reminder that people need to stop and think before adding to the world population. The UN estimates that the number of people on the earth will grow from the current 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion by the year 2050. India currently supports a population of 1.13 billion and is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populated country by 2030. The current rate of growth — about 20 per cent over the last decade in India — is unsustainable and is accelerating falling water supplies, over-cultivation and climate change.
This, of course, does not mean that after the age of 40, all you can look forward to is become senile and losing bladder control. Another study released this week, from Sweden, shows that people in their 70s, both men and women, enjoy sex more than people half their age. Not only are they having sex at least once a week, but they are also reporting higher rate of satisfaction, with people having more sex reporting fewer problems such as impotence. Cruel sceptics, of course, will say that people in their 70s may have forgotten what good sex felt like, but as long as they are having fun and not adding to world population, I see no reason to grudge them their happiness.