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Cystic Fibrosis

Sex & Relationships

As you grow up and develop important relationships with others, you may also find that this includes sexual relationships. It is important that you think about looking after both your Cystic Fibrosis and your sexual health. Its important, for example, to know that some forms of contraception may be ineffective because of Cystic Fibrosis. Your Cystic Fibrosis team can talk to you more about what you need to be aware of, including using suitable protection to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STI's, you don't need to be worried about talking to them about this.

If you are getting contraception from your GP or other services, please tell them about your Cystic Fibrosis to help them make the right decisions for you. If you are a woman and are thinking about pregnancy, now or in the future it is important to think about discussing it with your Cystic Fibrosis team several months before you start trying to conceive. This is to help you ensure that your lung health and your weight are the best they can be and you are ready emotionally and physically.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust also has very useful information about thinking about starting a family with stories of people's experiences of becoming parents. You can read this here.

Talking about your condition

When you first meet someone, Cystic Fibrosis may be the last thing on your mind.  Cystic Fibrosis does not need to get in the way of starting a relationship. However, there are a few things that it can be important to think about, which are covered in this section. 

 How do I tell them? For some people, talking about Cystic Fibrosis will be easy and for others, it may be a little trickier.  It can feel difficult to time when, what and how much to say.  There is no right or wrong way to do this, but it may be easier to slowly let people know about Cystic Fibrosis and how it affects you. You may not want to tell someone straight away and choose to wait until you feel ready, at your own pace.  

Some people find it helpful to use natural triggers to start a conversation about Cystic Fibrosis, for example explaining why you are taking Creon with your meal. You may want to tell them a little bit of information first and, as you get to know them better, you can go into a bit more detail when you feel ready and at a pace which feels comfortable for you.  Your Cystic Fibrosis team can help you to prepare for having these conversations.

Telling someone often depends on the individual and how much they want to know. They might ask you lots of questions or they might not want to know much information when you first meet. When telling them, it is important to remember you have lived with Cystic Fibrosis for all your life, but for them this may be a completely new experience.

Sex

If you decide you would like to have a sexual relationship with your partner, Cystic Fibrosis does not have to get in the way of this. It is important to realise that sex is a little like exercise and so some people with Cystic Fibrosis can find sex causes breathlessness, tiredness and/or coughing.  Some people don't report any of these problems and if they do occur they can be overcome.  It may surprise you to know that you can talk to your physiotherapist to find ways to manage coughing at this stage or positions that are easier for you! You can find more information here.

It may be embarrassing, but it can be helpful to talk with your partner about any problems and work together on ways to solve them.  

Contraception

Most females with Cystic Fibrosis have normal fertility, as do a small number of males with Cystic Fibrosis, so it is important to use contraception to avoid unplanned pregnancies.  There are many different contraceptive options but not all are suitable for people with Cystic Fibrosis so it is important that you get advice on the best option for your personal situation. The Cystic Fibrosis teams are used to being asked these questions and won't be embarrassed if you ask! 

It is possible to get Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) from having sex.  STIs are common and can be unpleasant, but they are avoidable if you use condoms to protect yourself. Condoms are the only contraception that will both prevent pregnancy and protect you from sexually transmitted infections.  You can get condoms from pharmacies or sexual health clinics.  If you are sexually active with more than one partner, make sure you access regular sexual health screening.  Prevention is the key but regular screening is important to get quick treatment.

Do antibiotics affect contraception? Short-term antibiotics can affect some oral contraception so check with your Cystic Fibrosis team specifically about the antibiotics that you are on.  The same is the case for any long-term antibiotics.  The Cystic Fibrosis team may not know that you are on any contraception or that you are sexually active, so please check with them rather than take unnecessary risks.

Pregnancy

If you are a woman with Cystic Fibrosis and become pregnant either planned or unexpectedly, it is important that you let your Cystic Fibrosis team know.  The CF and Obstetric teams will monitor you closely during your pregnancy so that they can help to keep you as healthy as possible. Whilst many medications are safe during pregnancy and are important to keep you well, some medications may not be safe for your baby and may need to be stopped.  If you have CF related Diabetes, you might need to change your insulin dose or take higher strength vitamins. Your CF team will be able to advise you.

If you are a man with Cystic Fibrosis and thinking about starting a family it can be good to talk to your team. Hopefully you will already be aware that Cystic Fibrosis can impact on fertility, this does not mean that it is impossible to have a biological child of your own but does mean that you may need to go through a process called ICIS which you can find out more about here