CF and Sex 101: Reproduction and Sexual Function
Last updated: December 2021
Sex is a normal, fun, and important part of our lives as humans. Whether you have CF or not, you have the right to connect with others and enjoy intimacy in a way that makes you feel comfortable. Many people wonder if CF affects sexual function and reproduction and how to go about maintaining a healthy sex life with CF.
Females with CF
Some women with CF may take longer to conceive due to thick cervical mucus and ovulation issues, but many go on to have healthy pregnancies.1
It's important to have an open and honest conversation with your CF care team if fertility is a concern for you.
Sexual function and desire for intimacy in women with CF can be completely normal and fulfilling. Some secondary issues caused by CF like frequent yeast infections and stress urinary incontinence can cause minor challenges or interruptions in intimacy. However, speaking to your CF doctor about treatment or help is an important step to maintaining a healthy sex life.
Males with CF
Men with CF are able to have a healthy and fulfilling sex life, although CF does affect fertility in this group.
Ninety-eight percent of men with CF are infertile due to a missing vas deferens.1 The vas deferens is the tube that transports sperm from the testes through the penis. However, with the help of assisted reproductive technology, such as testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) men can go on to father children.1
The missing vas deferens does not affect sexual function, or the ability to have an erection and ejaculate. Men with CF may have less ejaculate that is clear or more transparent in color, but can engage in normal sexual function otherwise.1
Practical tips for intimacy
A lot of people living with CF worry that sex or intimate activities will make them have a coughing attack or exacerbate their symptoms. No one wants to cough up mucus or blood during sex, but it happens and it doesn’t have to ruin the moment or your desire for a healthy and normal sex life.
There are a few practical tips to approaching intimacy with CF that may be helpful.2
- Take a bronchodilator and complete airway clearance 20-30 minutes prior to intimacy if you are able
- Take advantage of the times of day when you feel at your best to engage
- Practice positions that don’t put a lot of pressure on the chest and make it difficult to breathe
- Let your partner take a more active role or switch up the acts when you become fatigued
- Have an open and honest conversation about what to expect with your partner
- Give a “cough warning” and then jump back in and enjoy
Important points to remember
Although CF can have an impact on reproduction in the long run, there’s a lot of misconceptions about fertility and sexual health in the community.
Many women my age just assumed growing up they couldn’t get pregnant. They were either told that incorrectly by a physician, or assumed it was true because many women with CF weren’t healthy enough to have children. In fact, the opposite is true!
Women with CF can conceive and have children. That’s why it is important to talk to your CF care team about what type of birth control is the best fit for you to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Moreover, both men and women with CF are at a risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. Using protection is vital to maintain a safe and healthy sex life!
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