4 CF-related health issues I tackled during my pregnancy

I'm thankful to have delivered a healthy baby, despite several complications

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by Jennifer Bleecher |

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In 1994, I was 24 years old and engaged to be married. My health was good despite my cystic fibrosis (CF). My doctor hadn’t mentioned anything about family planning, so I decided to move forward with my life.

A month before our wedding, my husband-to-be and I stopped using birth control. I’d been taking it for a number of years and figured it’d take time for my body to adjust. Plus, it was possible that CF would affect my fertility, so I didn’t expect to conceive anytime soon.

I was wrong. As it turned out, I discovered I was pregnant the day my husband and I got home from our honeymoon. Following are some of the cystic fibrosis-related health issues I tackled during my pregnancy.

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1. Pneumonia

Just before the three-month mark, I was hospitalized with pneumonia. I received IV antibiotics and a few chest X-rays, but only after signing waivers stating that I was releasing liability. My doctors explained that the medications they were giving me hadn’t been tested on a fetus. It was a scary time for me.

2. Gestational diabetes

My pregnancy craving was sweet-and-sour chicken. Every single day, I’d stop at a great little Chinese restaurant on my way to work and pick up a large order of sweet-and-sour chicken with white rice, to go.

I hadn’t had many issues with my blood sugar levels because of CF, but we were monitoring it during my pregnancy. I did end up experiencing elevated blood sugars, which was diagnosed as gestational diabetes and treated with diet control. I couldn’t give up the chicken, as my daily craving was too strong, but otherwise I did my best.

3. Poor weight gain

By my eighth month of pregnancy I’d only gained 9 pounds — well below what my CF physician and obstetrician would’ve liked.

Back then, I was working full time as a nurse at our local hospital’s cardiac telemetry unit. It was a busy unit, and I worked the 3-11 p.m. shift. My providers believed my active, stressful job and elevated blood sugars were contributing to my low weight.

It was important, however, that I consume more calories to support myself and the growing baby inside of me. My CF doctor strongly encouraged me to go on maternity leave early, stay off my feet, eat, and rest in the hopes of gaining a few pounds. Reluctantly, I did just that and ended up gaining 5 pounds in the last month of my pregnancy.

4. Hemoptysis

My first episode of hemoptysis, or coughing up blood, happened in the middle of the night. I was up often to use the bathroom, and one night, while standing over the bathroom sink, I felt a weird bubble quickly come up from my lungs. The next thing I knew, bright red blood was covering most of the porcelain.

When I looked in the mirror and saw blood covering my lips, my knees almost buckled. I immediately thought I was dying or losing my baby. My CF physician had never warned me about hemoptysis.

I knew Frank Deford’s film about his daughter with CF, “Alex: The Life of a Child,” showed Alex coughing up blood, so I put in my VCR tape to watch the scene. To my disappointment, though, there was no instruction I could ascertain. I ended up sitting on the couch for the rest of the night, wide awake, until I could call my CF doctor in the morning. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

In early 1995, at 25 years old, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, full-term, 9-pound, 12-ounce baby girl without any issues. Now 27, she is, of course, a CF carrier.

I’ve loved every second of being her mother.

Have you been through pregnancy with cystic fibrosis? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


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