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How to Manage Pregnancy with Cystic Fibrosis

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Updated June 30, 2008

With proper management, women with cystic fibrosis can experience uncomplicated pregnancies that result in healthy babies. Follow these tips to get you started as you embark on your path to motherhood.

Plan Your Pregnancy

Women with CF have better pregnancy outcomes when pregnancy is planned. Before you get pregnant, you should have good nutritional status, be at your target weight, and have at least 40% lung function. During the planning stages, your partner should have genetic testing to determine if he is a carrier of cystic fibrosis.

Maintain Adequate Nutrition

Nutrition demands will increase during pregnancy, and you will probably be advised to take supplements such as nutrition shakes to be sure that you’re getting enough calories. Sometimes, women with CF are not able to get enough nutrition from foods and supplements. If that happens, you may have to go to the hospital to get intravenous nutrition called TPN through a long-term IV called a central line.

Fight Respiratory Infections Aggressively

Respiratory infections should be treated with antibiotics as soon as the first symptom appears, because they can get out of hand very quickly in people with CF and reduce the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the body. Low oxygen is a problem for you and for your baby since he or she is counting on you to meet his or her oxygen needs.

Continue Chest Physiotherapy (CPT)

CPT is an important part of your daily treatment and must be done even when you are pregnant. It will not harm your baby.

Continue Medications

Most oral and inhaled medications that are prescribed to women with cystic fibrosis are safe for the baby. Review your medication list with your obstetrician at the first visit and he or she will tell you if any adjustments are needed.

Be Prepared for Hospital Admission

You may need to stay in the hospital for a while during your pregnancy for treatment or observation. This is most likely to happen sometime in the last three months when your body may begin to have problems handling the demands of pregnancy.

Decide if You Want to Breastfeed

Women with cystic fibrosis can breastfeed their babies, and their milk contains sufficient amounts of protein and sodium. If you do choose to breastfeed, you will need to meet with your nutritionist to develop a plan that will provide enough extra calories for you and your baby.

Plan for the Future

Despite modern advances in treatment, cystic fibrosis is still a life-shortening disease. Some people live longer, but the average life expectancy of people with CF in the United States is about 36 years. It is unpleasant to think about the possibility of not being able to raise your child to adulthood, but it is a possibility that must be considered. Discuss this possibility with your partner and begin making plans for the care of your child.

Another option that may be considered in future planning is the possibility of lung transplantation. Not everybody with CF will qualify for a transplant, but those that do can be successful in lengthening their lives. So far, about 1600 CF patients have received lung transplants. Most of them were still living one year later and about half of them were doing well five years after the transplant.

Sources:
Calderwood, C. and Nelson-Piercy, C. “Asthma and Cystic Fibrosis in Pregnancy”. Women’s Health Medicine. 2005. 2: 29-32 22 June 2008.

Cheng E.Y., Goss C.H., McKone, E.F., Galic V., Debley C.K., Tonelli, M.R. and Aitken M.L. “Aggressive Prenatal Care Results in Successful Fetal Outcomes in CF Women.” 2006 Journal of Cystic Fibrosis 5:85 – 91. 22 June 2008.

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