A potentially serious illness called cystic fibrosis can have an adverse effect on both men’s and women’s fertility. However, there are ways to preserve or enhance your ability to conceive.
The Basics Regarding Cystic Fibrosis
Also commonly referred to as CF, cystic fibrosis is a lung disease typically diagnosed in young children. The ailment causes progressive damage to the lungs and impacts their capacity to function properly. The genesis of CF cases is a malformed or damaged gene known as the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR).
The CFTR gene is responsible for the steady and efficient formation of mucus. In individuals with CF, the mucus that forms is too thick, which obstructs breathing passageways. The thickness of the mucus can lead to breathing difficulties, lung infections, respiratory failure and, in the most severe instances, death.
Cystic Fibrosis and its Effect on Fertility
- Thicker Cervical Mucus –While the CFTR gene malfunction most prominently affects lung mucus, abnormal manifestations of the substance appear in other bodily regions. In women, thick mucus also develops in the cervix. This could cause greater difficulty for sperm’s ability to travel to fertilize eggs. That said, this occurrence by no means inhibits a woman’s ability to conceive, and many subjects are eventually successful in that endeavor.
- Medication Side Effects – Certain medications used to control CF symptoms elicit untoward reproductive side effects. Some drugs cause vaginal bacterial imbalances that could precipitate infections and painful intercourse. Researchers also believe that some preparations might additionally trigger irregular menstrual cycles.
- Infertility – Many men diagnosed with CF are stricken with a rare defect known as congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens (CBAVD). The vas deferens is a tube-like structure that transports sperm from the testicles to other regions of the reproductive tract. CBAVD makes it impossible for sperm to enter seminal fluid, which renders impacted men virtually unable to conceive.
- Lung Transplant Rejection Drugs Linked to Birth Defects – For many patients a lung transplant is often the last option. However, men who are fortunate enough to receive a new lung are required to ingest drugs designed to prevent their bodies from rejecting the foreign structure. Medical researchers have found that some of these preparations might precipitate birth defects in unborn children.
Steps CF Patients Can Employ to Overcome Infertility Risks
As mentioned, women stricken with thick cervical mucus might experience slight difficulties before ultimately conceiving. Repeated attempts often produce the intended results.
Ladies whose medications have precipitated vaginal infections might be able to find alternative medications that do not lead to such unpleasant effects. When alternative medications are not indicated, women are advised to closely monitor their vaginal regions and promptly bring any changes or new symptoms to the attention of their doctors.
Men with CF still may be able to father children with the aid of assisted reproductive technology (ART) techniques such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), during which a subject’s sperm is collected and utilized to inseminate a woman’s eggs in a laboratory setting.
Individuals who have undergone successful lung transplants and who hope to conceive need to consult with their doctors and genetic counselors. Because the rejection drugs administered to lung-transplant recipients have been linked to potential birth defects, these individuals are not always deemed suitable candidates for ART techniques.