Anonymous on September 8, 2011

My husband has cerebral palsy...will we be able to have a baby?

I'm a 24-year-old woman who’s married to a 23-year-old male wheelchair user who has cerebral palsy. Is there any reason why he wouldn’t be able to impregnate me? He has complete sexual function and we have a normal sex life.

answered by Mitchell Tepper, PhD, MPH on September 8, 2011

I’m glad you asked this question because many people worry that a disability might keep them from being able to have children…or whether they might pass on a disability to their children. I’m happy to offer you some thoughts for your consideration.

The good news is that cerebral palsy (CP) doesn’t affect sexual function...nor should it decrease a man’s fertility. In fact, most men with CP don’t have any more problems than the general population when it comes to achieving erections or producing viable sperm.

That said, when you’re ready to have a baby, talk to your doctor. Your obstetrician can help you understand how to take good care of yourself, and provide tips to your husband to ensure maximum fertility (e.g., avoiding smoking and alcohol).

However, if it turns out that you’re unable to conceive, it probably won’t be because of your husband’s CP…your doctor will be able to help you sort out the root cause, and determine your next steps and other options.

And just in case you were wondering…

Is cerebral palsy genetic? Is there a risk of passing it to the baby? There are many causesof CP – most of which aren’t genetic. Typically, the cause of cerebral palsy is a disruption in brain development in the womb or shortly after birth from an external event.

In a few instances, however, CP is caused by a genetic abnormality (although environmental factors probably still play a roll). That said, some research – including a 2006 study conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia– points to the possibility that some genes associated with CP could be inherited.

The risk is low…but if your husband isn’t sure of the cause of his CP, the two of you might considering talking with a genetic counselor to learn more.

What about resources for parents with cerebral palsy? As you and your husband navigate the exciting pathway to becoming parents, you may also be interested in resources for parenting with a disability. There are many resources online, like Parents with Disabilities, that feature support groups and recommendations for ways to alter one’s home, care routine and even wheelchairs to better embrace the demands of parenthood.

Thanks again for writing, and I wish you and your husband the best of luck as you consider your options in starting a family of your own.

Related info:

Mitchell Tepper, PhD, MPH

Dr. Tepper directs sexual health education at An AASECT-certified sexuality educator and counselor, his areas of expertise include sexual dysfunctions, sexuality following disability or illness, pleasure and orgasm, relationships, and military and veteran couples' counseling. Dr. Tepper was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University.

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