If you and your partner both are carriers for CF, it doesn’t necessarily mean your child will have CF. But it will likely still affect your pregnancy.

Genetic disorders range widely from long-term yet survivable conditions like asthma to more severe and life threatening diagnoses like muscular dystrophy. For many people, a major concern surrounding genetic conditions isn’t just about them having it but whether they’ll pass down those genes to future children.

For example, cystic fibrosis (CF) is a condition that specifically targets critical organs in the body — and can be progressive. This means that a person can get worse as they age.

In this article, we’ll look into whether CF is genetic and how likely you are to pass it down to your children.

Yes, the primary cause of CF is genetics. This means that a person who has CF usually carries the genetic mutation that causes it.

Specifically, the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene has mutated, which affects the accompanying CFTR protein that regulates how chloride moves to the surface of the cell. If a person has CF, it means that both of their parents carry the CFTR gene mutation, and each parent passed down a mutated copy.

CF is usually characterized by persistent coughing, frequent infections, poor growth, shortness of breath, infertility in people assigned male at birth, and physical deformities. However, not everyone who has CF will have symptoms, or they may not be as obvious.

Ultimately, the severity of your CF symptoms depends on which organ or organs are affected.

It’s possible for someone who’s a carrier of CF — and therefore doesn’t have symptoms — to pass down the gene to their children.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, roughly 40,000 people in the United States have CF, which is considered a rare genetic disease. Annually, about 1,000 newborns are diagnosed with CF. Meanwhile, about 1 in 30 Americans is a carrier, with the condition being most common in Caucasian people.

The current recommendations state that anyone who is pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant should be offered carrier screening for CF. If either you or your partner is found to be a carrier for CF, you’ll be offered counseling to help decide what the next steps in your parenthood journey should be.

In the United States, newborns are also screened for CF shortly after birth. However, the standard screening process only looks for the most common CF mutations, so if either you or your partner are carriers, make sure to request a more complete screening.

If both parents are carriers of the CFTR mutation

Keep in mind that both parents need to be carriers of the CFTR mutation for a baby to potentially have CF. But if you both carry the mutation, the chances of your baby either becoming a carrier or having CF are as follows:

  • 75% chance that the baby won’t have CF
  • 50% chance that the baby will be a carrier but won’t have CF
  • 25% chance that the baby will have CF
  • 25% chance that the baby won’t have CF or be a carrier

If both parents have CF

If both you and your partner have been diagnosed with CF, your child will be, too.

However, CF tends to affect male fertility, making it very difficult to successfully conceive a child using the person’s sperm. In most cases, you’ll need to use donor sperm, which would then dramatically reduce your odds of having a child with CF since donor sperm is screened for genetic diseases like CF.

Yes, it’s possible to get CF even if neither of your parents has the condition.

This is because your parents only need to be carriers of the CFTR mutation. If both of them are carriers, there’s a 25% chance that their child might have the condition.

If neither of your parents were carriers, it wouldn’t be possible for you to develop the condition. However, while exceptionally rare, it may be possible for your genes to have developed the CFTR mutation on their own. This could potentially make you a new carrier for CF, but you would not develop the condition.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition characterized by suppressed organ function that often causes frequent infections, male infertility, and difficulty breathing.

To develop it, both parents must carry the CFTR mutation gene. However, even if both parents carry this gene, it’s not a guarantee that any future children will also have CF. With two parents that both carry the mutation, any children they have will only have a 25% chance of having CF.