Dear Mr. Dad: Last week you talked about some pregnancy myths and you mentioned that expectant mothers should be more worried about putting on too little weight than too much. That makes sense, but isn’t there a limit to how much weight a woman should put on? Before she got pregnant, my wife worked out and we tried to eat a healthy diet. But over the past couple of months, she’s completely let herself go, putting on about 30 pounds—and we’re only halfway through the pregnancy. I’ve tried to gently tell her that she should watch her diet a bit more, but she insists that she’s “eating for two.” How can I get through to her?
A: A woman whose pre-pregnancy weight was in the “normal” range, needs to eat about 300 more calories per day than she did before. That translates into 25-35 pounds, which is the range recommended by most OBs. (Women who were underweight before pregnancy should put on a little more, those who were overweight should put on less.)
Since your wife will get weighed at every OB visit, her doctor will probably be chatting with her about her weight pretty soon. And given that it’s rarely safe for a man to talk to a woman about her weight, that’s a good thing. Still, at the pace she’s bulking up, she’s putting herself and, more importantly, her baby at risk. Unfortunately, she’ll need more encouragement to start cutting calories than her OB alone can provide, which puts you directly in the line of fire.
No one who doesn’t have a child with special needs can possibly understand what parents who do are going through. But we often—after thanking our lucky stars that our children are okay–try to imagine how difficult caring for a special needs child must be and wonder how we’d handle it. I certainly do.
And that’s why I was especially interested in a new study of parents of children with trisomy 13 or 18 (both are severe chromosomal abnormalities that usually kill children before their first birthday. And the children who survive often have significant physical and cognitive disabilities).
Dear Mr. Dad: I’m 45 and my wife is 35. We’ve been together for more than ten years and have finally decided to have a family. I know that it may be harder for my wife to conceive than it would have been if she was a little younger. But someone recently told her that my age could be a factor too. Is that true? Sounds crazy.
A: I hate to take sides, but your wife wins this round. Like most people, you know about the difficulties that women over 35 have getting pregnant. That’s only the beginning. As women age, the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, and birth defects increases. But we rarely hear anything how the father’s age affects fertility and beyond. Here’s a quick overview.
- Researchers at Bristol University in the UK found that men’s fertility begins to decrease starting at about age 24. The odds of conceiving within six months of trying go down two percent per year over that age.
- Sperm count decreases with age, and the little guys gradually lose their speed and accuracy, meaning fewer of them will make it all the way to the egg, and those that do will take a lot longer to get there.
- Sperm quality also decreases, starting when the man is about 35. That means that the ones that reach the egg are less able to fertilize it. And even if they do, the resulting pregnancies have an increased risk of ending in miscarriage.
- A small number of very rare health risks and genetic conditions are associated with older dads. For example, compared do men under 30, dads over 40 have a higher risk of fathering children with autism, schizophrenia, dwarfism, heart defects, facial abnormalities, epilepsy, and some childhood cancers. Advanced paternal age may also be associated with children’s lower IQ scores, increased risk of developing breast cancer and shortened lifespan (for women born to dads 45 and over). This may be why the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has set 40 as the upper limit for sperm donations. Some clinics have even lower limits.
- As your kids get older, you may not like it very much when people assume you’re the grandfather instead of the dad.
- As you age, it may be a bit harder for you to do some of the physical things young dads do, such as skateboarding, giving piggy-back rides, and just crawling around on the floor.
On the other hand, being an older dad has its advantages. And in many people’s eyes, those advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
- Older dads are generally more financially secure, less worried about saving up for a down payment or making partner, and they’re better able to provide for their family.
- Research indicates that older dads are more likely to share responsibility for taking care of their children and tend to be more actively involved with them.
- Older dads may also be warmer, more nurturing, and focus more on their children than younger dads.
- Older dads rate themselves as being more patient, more mature, and calmer than the young bucks.
- There is some indication that children of older dads do better in school. That’s probably at least partly due to some of the factors above.
- Being an older dad keeps you thinking and feeling young. You’re up on the latest culture, you hang out with younger couples, get to throw baseballs and go to school plays, and you’ll know who Lady Gaga and Jay-Z are.