July 10, 2006

Older dads seem to have sicklier babies

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Findings from a recent study
indicate that new fathers in their 40s and 50s are slightly
more likely to have an infant with a low Apgar score than
fathers in their 20s.

The Apgar score, which was first created in 1952, rates the
newborn on five parameters: respiratory effort, heart rate,
reflex irritability, muscle tone, and skin color with a value
of 0 to 2 (worst to best) for each. Thus, a total score of 10
is optimal. The score is calculated at 1 and 5 minutes after

In the last few years, several reports have linked advanced
paternal age with various adverse pregnancy outcomes, including
fetal death and preterm birth. However, little was known about
the impact, if any, on the physical condition of the infant at

To investigate, Dr. Yuelian Sun, from the University of
Aarhus in Denmark, and colleagues analyzed data from more than
70,000 couples who had a first infant born between 1980 and

The team reports in the research journal Epidemiology that,
compared with fathers in their 20s, those between 45 and 49
years of age and those 50 years of age or older were 64 percent
and 49 percent more likely, respectively, to have an infant
with a 1-minute Apgar score between 1 and 3.

Moreover, fathers 45 years of age or older were at
increased risk of having an infant with a 5-minute Apgar score
of less than 7.

"The biologic link between advanced paternal age and low
Apgar scores is unknown," Sun and colleagues say. However, some
studies have shown that "expression of specific paternal genes
is crucial for the placental development and that chromosomal
aberrations tend to increase with paternal age."

SOURCE: Epidemiology, July 2006.