Cystic fibrosis and pregnancy
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a condition that affects breathing and digestion. It’s caused by very thick mucus that builds up in the body.
Mucus is a fluid that normally coats and protects parts of the body. It’s usually slippery and slightly thicker than water. But In CF, the mucus is thicker and sticky. It builds up in the lungs and digestive system and can cause problems with how you breathe and digest food.
CF is inherited. This means it’s passed from parent to child through genes. A gene is a part of your body’s cells that stores instructions for the way your body grows and works. Genes come in pairs — you get one of each pair from each parent.
Sometimes the instructions in genes change. This is called a gene change or a mutation. Parents can pass gene changes to their children. Sometimes a gene change can cause a gene to not work correctly. Sometimes it can cause birth defects or other health conditions. A birth defect is a health condition that is present in a baby at birth.
You have to inherit a gene change for CF from both parents to have CF. If you inherit the gene change from just one parent, you have the gene change for CF, but you don’t have the condition. When this happens, you’re called a CF carrier. A CF carrier has the gene but doesn’t have the condition.
If you and your partner both carry the gene change for CF, your baby may get two CF gene changes (one from each of you) and have CF.
Yes. But it depends on both you and your partner. If you and your partner both have CF, your baby will have CF.
If you and your partner are both CF carriers, there is a:
- 3-in-4 chance (75 percent) that your baby won’t have CF
- 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) that your child won’t have CF but will be a CF carrier
- 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your child will have CF
- 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your child will not have CF and not be a carrier
A genetic counselor can help you understand your chances of passing CF to your baby. A genetic counselor is a person who is trained to help you understand about how genes, birth defects and other medical conditions run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby's health.
Ask your health care provider if you need help finding a genetic counselor. Or contact the National Society of Genetic Counselors.
There are two types of tests that can tell you if you have CF or if you’re a carrier. Both are safe to take during pregnancy. Your partner can have the tests, too.
- A blood test
- A swab of cells inside your mouth. This means your provider rubs a cotton swab against the inside of your cheek to get some cells.
Your provider sends the blood or swab sample to a lab for testing.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that health care providers make CF carrier screening available to all couples. It’s often done as a routine prenatal test in early pregnancy.
About 1 of 31 people in the United States is a CF carrier. You and your partner may want to have CF carrier testing if:
- CF runs in either of your families. You also may want to get genetic counseling. Genetic counseling can help you understand your chances of having a baby with CF and what kind of treatment he may need if he does.
- You are:
- Caucasian and your family comes from Northern Europe. About 1 of every 25 people with this ancestry is a CF carrier.
- Hispanic. One out of every 62 Hispanics in the United States is a CF carrier.
- African-American. One out of every 65 African-Americans in the United States is a CF carrier.
- Asian American. One out of every 94 Asian Americans in the United States is a CF carrier.
Yes. If you or your partner has CF or is a CF carrier, you can have a prenatal test to find out if your baby has the condition or is a carrier.
You can have either of these tests:
- Chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS). This test checks tissue from the placenta for birth defects and genetic conditions. You can get CVS at 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
- Amniocentesis (also called amnio). This test checks amniotic fluid from the amniotic sac around your baby for birth defects and genetic conditions. You can get this test at 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Talk to your provider or genetic counselor if you’re thinking of having either of these tests.
Some women with CF may have trouble getting pregnant, but many can get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy. Some men with a mutation in the same gene that is responsible for CF may be infertile. This means they can’t get their partner pregnant. They may or may not have CF symptoms. If you and your partner are having trouble getting pregnant, ask your provider or genetic counselor about this.
Women with CF may have a higher risk of getting gestational diabetes. Diabetes is when you have too much sugar in your blood. Too much sugar in your blood can damage organs in your body, including blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Diabetes must be treated during pregnancy for the health of the mother and the baby, and after pregnancy for the health of the mother.
If you have CF and are thinking about getting pregnant, talk to your provider. You need ongoing care throughout pregnancy from your provider and other specialists experienced with CF.
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Last reviewed January 2013
See also: Cystic fibrosis, Genetic counseling, Newborn screening, Your family health history
Frequently Asked Questions
What is mononucleosis?
Mononucleosis (also called mono) is an infection usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It’s sometimes caused by another virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV). EBV and CMV are part of the herpes virus family. Mono is most common in teenagers and young adults, but anyone can get it. Mono is called the “kissing disease” because it’s usually passed from one person to another through saliva. In addition to kissing, it can also be passed through sneezing, coughing or sharing pillows, drinks, straws, and toothbrushes.
You can have mono without having any symptoms. But even if you don’t get sick, you can still pass it to others. Symptoms can include:
- Achy muscles
- Belly pain
- Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands in your neck
If your symptoms don’t go away or get worse, tell your health care provider. He’ll most likely do a physical exam and test your blood to find out for sure if you have mono.
There’s no vaccine to prevent mono. There’s also no specific treatment. The best care is to take it easy and get as much rest as you can. It may take a few weeks before you fully recover.
Can Rh factor affect my baby?
The Rh factor may be a problem if mom is Rh-negative but dad is Rh-positive. If dad is Rh-negative, there is no risk.
If your baby gets her Rh-positive factor from dad, your body may believe that your baby's red blood cells are foreign elements attacking you. Your body may make antibodies to fight them. This is called sensitization.
If you're Rh-negative, you can get shots of Rh immune globulin (RhIg) to stop your body from attacking your baby. It's best to get these shots at 28 weeks of pregnancy and again within 72 hours of giving birth if a blood test shows that your baby is Rh-positive. You won't need anymore shots after giving birth if your baby is Rh-negative. You should also get a shot after certain pregnancy exams like an amniocentesis, a chorionic villus sampling or an external cephalic version (when your provider tries to turn a breech-position baby head down before labor). You'll also want to get the shot if you have a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or suffer abdominal trauma.
I had a miscarriage. How long should I wait to try again?
Before getting pregnant again, it's important that you are ready both physically and emotionally. If you don't need tests or treatments to discover the cause of the miscarriage, it's usually OK for you to become pregnant after one normal menstrual cycle. However, it may take longer for you to feel emotionally ready to be pregnant again. Everyone responds differently to a miscarriage. Only you will know when you are ready to try to get pregnant again.
Are gallstones common during pregnancy?
Not common, but they do happen. Elevated hormones during pregnancy can cause the gallbladder to function more slowly, less efficiently. The gallbladder stores and releases bile, a substance produced in the liver. Bile helps digest fat. When bile sits in the gallbladder for too long, hard, solid nuggets called gallstones can form. The stones can block the flow of bile, causing indigestion and sometimes serious pain. Staying at a healthy weight during pregnancy can help lower your risk of gallstones. Exercise and eating foods that are low in fat and high in fiber, like veggies, fruits and whole grains, can help, too. Symptoms of gallstones include nausea, vomiting and intense, continuous abdominal pain. Treatment during pregnancy may include surgery to remove the gallbladder. Gallstones in the third trimester can be managed with a strict meal plan and pain medication, followed by surgery several weeks after delivery.