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For female cystic fibrosis (CF) patients and providers, individual CF health care specialists have a significant role in helping patients gain access to educational resources that can help them improve sexual and reproductive health, according to a study by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Women with CF face important disease-specific sexual and reproductive health concerns, including delays in puberty, increased risk of vaginal yeast infections, urinary incontinence, problems with sexual function, concerns regarding contraceptive choice, decreased fertility, and adverse effects of pregnancy on their lungs.
The study, published online this week in Pediatrics, led by Traci Kazmerski, MD, fellow, Division of Pulmonology, Children’s Hospital, sought to find the best ways to provide women with CF effective sexual and reproductive health care by interviewing CF center directors from a nationwide sample as well as young adult women with the disease and asked them about their experiences and preferences. The findings may help guide the development of educational resources around sexual and reproductive health for women with CF.
Both CF providers and patients agreed that the CF provider has a fundamental role in providing CF-specific sexual and reproductive health care. They also believed that educational resources and provider training on sexual and reproductive health topics would improve patient care in this area.
“Patients were clear that they want both sexual and reproductive health educational resources and for their CF providers to begin those discussions, early and routinely,” said Dr. Kazmerski. “Our next step is to figure out how to do this as we care for our patients with CF.”
“This study provides some critical guidance on how to better provide sexual and reproductive health education and care for adolescents with cystic fibrosis, and encourages us to consider how to integrate such care for all adolescents with chronic medical conditions,” said co-author Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, chief, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s Hospital.
In addition to Drs. Kazmerski and Miller, other authors include David Orenstein, MD, and Daniel Weiner, MD, Joseph Pilewski, MD, and Sonya Borrero, MD, all of UPMC; and Lisa Tuchman, MD, of Children’s National Health System.
The study was supported by a grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (KAZMER13B0).