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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Biological Clocks May be Ticking Faster Than We Think

Aired April 30, 2002 - 08:54   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Anybody hear that sound, that ticking sound? Do you know what that is? That's my biological clock ticking away. To be honest, frankly, I didn't even know I had a biological clock until morning. Now I learn, at the age of 34, according to a new study, it is ticking even faster than we think, for both men and women.

CNN's medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is making a house call here to explain. What is up with this? I'm almost 35. I'm on the cusp of, like, downhill, aren't I?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you're going to father a child, you better get to work really quickly, because 34, well, you're almost at the cusp there.

We thought this was just an interesting study, because just as you said, people assume that men can father children basically as long as they have energy to have sex or as long as the Viagra works. But this new study says that might not be true.

Let's look at some men who have done a great job of fathering children in their golden years. First of all, Strom Thurmond had his first of four children at age 69. Tony Randall fathered two children in his late 70s. Anthony Quinn, well, he's the granddaddy of them all, fathered his last child in his early 80s. And so, what this study says, they may be studs, but they may also be statistical anomalies.

Let's take a look at the numbers. When a 35-year-old man has a partner on her most fertile day of the month, and they have sex, there's a 29 percent chance of conception. When a 40-year-old man has sex with a woman on her most fertile day, 18 percent chance of conception. And you might wonder, gee, why would that be true? Well, there's a couple reasons. Sperm, as they age, they lose what's called their motility, they just don't move as quickly as they should. Another reason, as sperm get older, they're more likely to have genetic abnormalities. The egg may die off, because it just was too abnormal to survive.

This study also looked at women. Now a lot of people assume that female fertility takes a nosedive in their 30s. This study says, hey, no, it is actually in the 20s. At age 19-26, a person has a 53 percent chance of conceiving if she has sex on her most fertile day. Age 27-29, that goes down to 41 percent. Age 30-34, it goes down to 35 percent. Age 35-39, goes down to 29 percent. So you see that sort of gradual nosedive there.

Now the authors of the study were very careful to say that this does not mean a woman in her late 20s is going to become infertile. They said, please don't take that message from it, but they said that, instead, it may take her another month or two to conceive a child than if she had tried doing it in her early 20s -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much for clearing that up. Thanks for being with us this morning.

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