The largest study investigating the influence of paternal age on the chances of having a baby with birth problems has found that fathers under the age of 20 are at highest risk. Babies born to teenage fathers were 22 per cent more likely to die in the first four weeks and 41 per cent more likely to die in the first year.They were also up to 17 per cent more likely to be born early and have a low birth weight, the Independent reported today. However, there was no increased risk for babies born to older fathers, aged 40-plus.
All the mothers in the study, published in the medical journal Human Reproduction, were aged 20 to 29, to eliminate the influence of maternal age.
The findings had potentially serious implications, said Professor Shi Wu Wen, of the Ottawa Health Research Institute, Canada, who led the study.
"Although the increased relative risks for most outcomes were small the magnitude of the risk to society could be huge, if the increases we found are truly attributable to paternal age, he added.
However, it was also likely that social factors played a part.
Teenage fathers were more likely to be poorer than older fathers in their 40s, less well educated and less likely to bring their partners for antenatal care when potential birth problems could be anticipated.