Adult CF: The Reproductive System
People with cystic fibrosis (CF) have a protein in their cells that doesn’t work right. This protein is called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR). CFTR controls the flow of water and certain salts in and out of the body’s cells. As the movement of salt and water in and out of cells changes, mucus becomes thickened.
In the reproductive system, the thickened secretions can cause blockages. These can affect how the sex organs develop and function.
CF does not affect sexual drive or performance. But it may cause these symptoms:
Delayed sexual development
Absence or stopping of menstruation
Irregular menstrual periods
Inflammation of the cervix
Infertility or sterility
Anxiety or feeling of negative body image
For most men with CF, the tube that carries sperm to the penis (vas deferens) does not develop. This is called congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens (CBAVD). This condition does not affect a man’s ability to have sex. But he can’t get a woman pregnant normally. Assisted reproductive techniques may help if a man chooses to start a family.
Women with CF have an increase in thick cervical mucus. This may make it harder for them to get pregnant. But it can happen. Women with the disease may want to use birth control.
Both men and women should think about the added demands of parenthood and how it might affect their own health. The decision is personal. Women with CF especially need to make sure they are healthy enough to carry a child. Talk with your healthcare team if you are thinking about parenting or having a baby.