5 Facts About Cystic Fibrosis and Fertility

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by Wendy Henderson |

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Adults with cystic fibrosis are like any other, most want to find the person of their dreams, settle down, get married and have children. But how does cystic fibrosis affect a man or woman’s ability to have children? We’ve compiled a list of facts about cystic fibrosis and fertility based on information from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

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1. Most female CF patients have no problems conceiving. 
Although cystic fibrosis affects the reproductive system, most women have no difficulties getting pregnant.

Female CF patients have a thicker cervical mucus caused by the defective functioning of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) function. The thicker mucus can make it more difficult for sperm to penetrate the cervix, increasing the amount of time needed for a woman to get pregnant.

Typically, pregnant moms with CF have healthy pregnancies and their babies are born just fine. In about 85 percent of pregnancies, mothers conceived within a year of stopping contraceptives.

2. CF treatment can cause women to experience problems.
While the disease does not cause infertility in women, treatments for the disease can cause problems for some women. Some of the medications female CFers need to take daily can interfere with the levels of bacteria and acidity in the vagina, making them more susceptible to thrush. In addition, women with CF are also more likely to suffer stress incontinence and have irregular menstruation related to poor nutrition.

Want to learn more about fertility and Cystic Fibrosis? Ask your questions in our CF forums.

3. Male CF patients are usually infertile. 
About 98 percent of all male CF patients are infertile due to a blockage or total absence of the sperm canal. This defect is called congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens (CBAVD). The vas deferens is a long tube that carries sperm from the testicles through the male reproductive system. The absence of sperm in the semen makes it impossible to fertilize an egg, and this absence may also make the semen thinner.

However, there is a difference between being infertile and sterile. Even though the vas deferens is blocked or nonexistent, the sperm is there, and 90 percent of CF patients produce sperm normally. This means that male CF patients can still have biological children through assisted reproductive technology (ART).

4. Possibilities for fathering a child change after a lung transplant.
The anti-rejection drugs prescribed to lung transplant patients have been linked to birth defects. Because of this, some IVF clinics may not accept the sperm from post-transplant men. Men who want to father children after their lung transplant would need to speak to their doctor about sperm freezing or other options prior to undergoing the transplant.

5. CF does not define a patient’s sex life. 
Cystic fibrosis affects the everyday life of patients and this includes reproduction and sex. However, there is no reason why people with CF should stop doing what they want. CF patients may be concerned that sexual activity could exacerbate their symptoms and cause shortness of breath, coughing, or hemoptysis, but it should not prevent them from having a fulfilling sex life. While there may be times when they may feel too tired or sick to have sex, the disease itself does not diminish sexual performance or the desire for intimacy.

MORE: Study finds that only half of women with cystic fibrosis use birth control

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 another 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.