Cystic fibrosis, or CF, is a genetic condition that may be among causes of infertility and may affect both men and women. However, there are more men that are affected by cystic fibrosis. This condition causes infertility, but the person affected by it is not sterile, so there are alternative ways to get pregnant.
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary condition that can be fatal. The symptoms of the disease may be detected in childhood, and these will typically aggravate with aging. CF causes different cysts such as pancreas cysts, gastro intestinal problems due to the lack of digestive enzymes, and lung infections that lead to breathing difficulties. Patients with CF may also suffer from sinus infections, heartburn, pancreatitis, osteoporosis and susceptibility to fractures, diarrhea or constipation and infertility.
Due to the fact that CF causes malabsorption, the disease will also cause growth abnormalities and the patients will typically be underweight and shorter. In time, liver disease may also develop. CF may be diagnosed before birth through a gene testing or during childhood by performing a sweat test.
Cystic Fibrosis and Infertility
CF may cause infertility due to the fact that the disease may affect the reproductive system as well. In male patients, the disease causes the absence of the vas deferens (in more than 97% of male patients diagnosed with CF). The vas deferens is the tube that connects the testicles with the ejaculatory ducts of the penis. The sperm will not be able to travel outside, so natural conception is not possible.
In female patients with CF, the infertility may be due to the fact that the cervical mucus in thickened. Malnutrition and malasborption may also lead to irregular ovulation and infertility.
Treatment Options for CF
The condition has no known treatment and a lot of patients die at an early age (as early as 20s or 30s), due to pulmonary failure or severe liver damage. For this reason, it is important to control the infections. Antibiotics will be prescribed to heal the possible lung and sinus infections. Vitamin supplementation will also be necessary. Lung transplant is recommended when the condition gets worse. For the congenital absence of vas deferens there is no known treatment. Surgery is not possible.
Alternative Forms of Conception
Given that the male patients affected by CF are infertile, but not sterile, there are a few alternative methods that may be tried to conceive. In vitro fertilization (IVF) can be an option. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is a revolutionary technique and is most often used as an IVF method, injecting the ovule with a sperm in a laboratory dish and then placing the ovule in the uterus. Artificial insemination is also possible; the sperm will be inserted directly in the uterus. However, patients with CF are advised not to reproduce, as the risk of having babies with CF is extremely high.