Female Reproduction - CF Buzz

Fertility

Most women with cystic fibrosis (CF) can naturally conceive and a carry a baby to full term.

For females with CF, the onset of menstruation is often delayed by one or two years. Many go on to have irregular periods for the rest of their lives, which is most likely because of a lower percentage of body fat.

Irregular periods can sometimes lead to troubles in fertility, and sometimes the amount of cervical mucus needed to implant a fertilised egg is altered affecting fertility. All of these possible complications are tackled in the same way as for other women without CF.

If you are trying for a baby, it’s a good idea to check in with your CF team. They’ll be able to arrange for specialist assistance with conception if needed, but they will also help you plan to keep your lung health and weight in the best condition for pregnancy.
 

Pregnancy

A healthy body is important for all women during pregnancy. Good nutrition with the right amount of minerals and vitamins is important for the healthy development of the baby.

For women with CF this is even more important because of their decreased ability to absorb the right balance of nutrients. Your CF team will support you through pregnancy, helping you plan to increase your kilojoule intake and maintain a healthy weight to support you and your baby.

Your CF team will also review your medication; the first trimester of pregnancy is critical for foetal development, and some drugs can affect that development.

Stable lung function isn’t impacted long term by pregnancy, but sometimes lung function will decrease during pregnancy. This is because the baby takes up space in the chest cavity as it grows. Once baby is born, lung function usually returns to pre-pregnancy levels.
 

Assisted Reproductive Technologies

ART is used if couples are experiencing difficulties conceiving. Some of the most common are:

  • Ovulation induction (OI) involves a series of hormone injections or tablets to stimulate the release of an egg from the ovaries. OI may be used in women with CF if they are not ovulating, or have an irregular menstrual cycle.
  • Artificial Insemination (AI) involves inserting semen through the cervix and into the uterus close to the time of ovulation. AI is often useful to help women with CF become pregnant if thick vaginal mucus is preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.
  • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) involves taking hormones to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. Eggs are collected from the woman and sperm from the male partner, and then combined in a laboratory to form an embryo. The fertilised embryo is then transferred in the hope it will implant in the uterine wall. IVF can be physically and emotionally difficult, expensive, and success is not guaranteed.
  • Surrogacy involves a woman carrying a child for another person or couple, agreeing to give the child to the person or couple immediately after birth. Using a surrogate can be an option for women with CF who are advised against carrying a pregnancy themselves but still want to have a child. Surrogacy is now legal in most states in Australia, but is a very complex undertaking for everyone involved.

 

Useful Resources

Cystic Fibrosis Canada have created this factsheet on sexuality and fertility.



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