Planning for Motherhood: Health Considerations
As people with cystic fibrosis continue to live longer and healthier lives, adult milestones are becoming more attainable. For the first time, many men and women with CF are considering pregnancy and parenthood--something so long ago unthinkable.
Planning a pregnancy with CF
Even though there’s a lack of research about CF and pregnancy and parenthood, physicians recommend pregnancies to be planned.1 That means taking the necessary steps to ensure the considerations of motherhood with CF have been thought through. Before my pregnancy, we very much took this approach and believe it helped me have a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy.
Deciding to become a parent with CF is an incredibly exciting time. In this two part series, I'll discuss the different things to take into consideration--both in your CF care and practical sense--before embarking on this new journey.
Health considerations for a CF pregnancy
There is so much to consider when determining if you are healthy enough to carry a pregnancy with CF. It’s always best to have early and honest conversations with your care team about your current health status and whether pregnancy is an option for you. If carrying a pregnancy isn’t an option, don't give up hope--there are other ways of becoming parents such as surrogacy, adoption, fostering, etc.
Maximize health status
However, the benefit of having a planned pregnancy is taking the time to become the healthiest version of yourself possible. Now is the chance to spend some time focusing on the variables of your health that can be challenging or unstable.
If you have issues with CFRD control, perhaps talk to your doctor about tightening your blood sugars as best you can. Try to gain or lose weight to reach a healthy BMI prior to pregnancy. Maybe you could benefit from a tune-up of IV antibiotics prior to conceiving when it’s most safe.1 I personally had to gain weight before becoming pregnant and exercised to strengthen my lungs and exercise tolerance, and I am glad I did as it helped keep me healthy throughout pregnancy.
Luckily with CF, there’s always an area in our health that can use some improvement or more dedication--now is the time to do it!
Revamp treatment compliance
Along with maximizing your health status, it’s really important to beef up your compliance with treatments and therapies prior to pregnancy. As mentioned above, you want to be at your absolute best while also being in a good place with a treatment schedule that fits your needs.
Consider revamping your treatment area with a mobile cart that houses your medications in an organized and accessible fashion. Accomplishing treatments postpartum is definitely more difficult, and it helps to have positive habits to fall back on in the midst of the chaos.
Catch up on appointments
Before a baby becomes your primary focus, its a good idea to get caught up on attending appointments such as routine CF care, specialities such as endocrinology or GI, as well as scheduling a preconception consultation. A preconception consultation is an appointment with a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) physician, or high-risk OBGYN. Their job is to help keep mom and baby safe during a high-risk pregnancy. The goal of a preconception consultation is to meet with a MFM to discuss the impact CF could have on a pregnancy.
During this appointment, you’ll review your medications and identify any medications that are unsafe to take during pregnancy. In addition, the doctor will go over any risks or “the worst-case scenario." That was my least favorite part of the appointment, truthfully, but it is necessary to understand what could happen.
Next, they will identify any issues they foresee with your personal case and offer suggestions to help reduce risk. (Prior to conception, I was advised to gain some weight to keep us both as safe as possible). Some women with CF might be healthy enough that a MFM doesn’t need to follow their pregnancy. They then can be referred to a general OBGYN. A preconception consultation is a beneficial first step to planning your pregnancy and accessing the care you will need.
Read on to Part 2, which will detail more practical considerations when planning a pregnancy with CF!
Your experience with CF and pregnancy
Are you in the process of becoming a parent with CF? What steps did you take to prepare? Let us know your experience below!
How has CF impacted your decision to become a parent?