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How Cystic Fibrosis Affects Women’s Reproductive Health and Fertility | Causes and Symptoms

How Cystic Fibrosis Affects Women’s Reproductive Health and Fertility | Causes and Symptoms

Women with cystic fibrosis are likely to experience more unique problems as opposed to men.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system, and other organs in both men and women.

Cystic fibrosis affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat, and digestive juices. These secreted fluids are normally thin and slippery. But in people with cystic fibrosis, a defective gene causes the secretions to become sticky and thick. Instead of acting as lubricants, the secretions plug up tubes, ducts, and passageways, especially in the lungs and pancreas.

According to The Lancet, cystic fibrosis is considered to affect at least 100,000 people worldwide. The condition is progressive and tends to need daily care. However,  people with cystic fibrosis are usually able to carry on with their day-to-day lives to a certain extent. 

Symptoms of cystic fibrosis:

The signs and symptoms of cystic fibrosis vary depending on the severity of the disease or age and passage of time. 

People with cystic fibrosis tend to have a higher than normal level of salt in their sweat. Parents often can taste the salt when they kiss their kids. Most of the other signs and symptoms of CF affect the respiratory system and digestive systems which can manifest in the form of wheezing, infection and foul-smelling stool. 

However, women with CF are likely to experience more unique problems as opposed to men, according to CF.com. For example, women with CF tend to have higher rates of CF-related diabetes and higher body mass index (BMI).



 

 

If that wasn't bad enough, they tend to acquire more serious lung infections earlier in life than males (9.5 years in females and 11.2 years in males), which damages lung tissue and makes long-term survival more difficult. Girls and women also get more acute exacerbations per year. 

Also, women with CF face reproductive health concerns because it affects their fertility. Simply put, women with CF might find it harder to get pregnant. 

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, this is mainly because women tend to have thicker cervical mucus due to abnormal cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) function. Thicker mucus can make it harder for sperm to successfully penetrate the cervix and can increase the amount of time it takes to become pregnant. Along with that, their ovulation also tends to be irregular, which also contributes to fertility problems.

However, it is not all gloom and despair, as most women with CF are able to become pregnant and achieve a normal pregnancy, with 85 percent of couples reporting that they were able to conceive within the first 12 months of stopping contraception. 
 
Unfortunately, per the Mayo Clinic, there is no cure for CF, but "treatment can ease symptoms, reduce complications and improve quality of life. Close monitoring and early, aggressive intervention is recommended to slow the progression of CF, which can lead to a longer life."



 

 

Medical treatment may also help to a certain extent, but it does get to a point where you learn to live with it. Remember, mind over matter, and there's nothing you can't overcome. 

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cystic-fibrosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353700

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32542-3/fulltext

https://cystic-fibrosis.com/women

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cystic-fibrosis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353706

Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Yulia Sutyagina

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not 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.

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