Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic (inherited) disease that affects breathing and digestion. It is caused by an abnormal gene that makes the body produce thick mucus in the lungs. This mucus promotes infections that often are life threatening. In the pancreas, similar thick secretions can lead to serious problems with food absorption.
Screening for CF is done by a blood or saliva test. Both parents will be tested and the results identify if either parent carries the abnormal gene that causes CF. The test can help determine increased risk for having a child with CF; if only one parent is a CF carrier, none of the children will have CF, though there is a 50-50 chance that each child will be a symptomless carrier.
Approximately 1 in 30 Americans is a symptomless carrier. Risk is increased if you're of Caucasian background with a 1 in 29 chance of carrying the gene, compared to 1 in 46 for people of Latino background, 1 in 65 for African-Americans, and 1 in 90 for Asian-Americans.
If results show that both parents are CF carriers, your provider can test the baby in utero. If the baby has CF, parents can take time before delivery to learn more about the disease and find appropriate specialists. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that health care providers make the CF carrier screening test available to all couples.