If you've been trying to conceive (TTC) for a while, you will try just about anything, including taking gross cough syrup because some mom blog somewhere said it's good for your cervical mucus. However, you're probably concerned about its safety. Is it safe to take Mucinex to help you get pregnant, or is this one TTC myth you need to forget?
Anecdotal evidence has shown that the active ingredient in Mucinex, guaifenesin, may have benefits for women with fertility problems as a result of a cervical failure, according to the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. However, this study was very small, and not longitudinal. There is also a very small cohort of researchers that think that it might also benefit men with sperm motility issues.
How does it work exactly? According to Unexplained Infertility, guaifenesin makes the cervical mucus less viscous and more fluid, allowing the sperm to travel faster through the cervix to get to the egg. When a woman has little or thick mucus, the cervix becomes a hostile environment, unable to facilitate the movement of the sperm to the egg. The same rule applies to sperm — men with poor motility often have more viscous semen. Think of it in terms of maple syrup versus molasses. If you pour molasses over a slanted plate, it doesn't just race down the surface to get to the bottom, but maple syrup, on the other hand, has a quicker progression down the plate and onto the table. Guaifenesin makes the sperm go from molasses to maple syrup, speeding its journey through the cervix.
But, is it safe to take Mucinex to help you get pregnant? According to the International Journal of Clinical Medicine, it's considered safe for men to take the recommended dosage of guaifenesin for the duration of TTC. For women, it's a bit more complicated. While guaifenesin is generally considered safe for pregnancy, there are always risks. The study printed in Unexplained Infertility noted that women only took the drug for the week of their expected ovulation, minimizing the risks of exposure to the developing tissue.
I spoke with Kathryn Wright, MD with Facey Medical Group to determine the absolute safety, and she tells Romper that because there is no actual, peer-reviewed evidence of the efficacy of the treatment, and because it's thinning the mucus everywhere in your body, not just in your cervix, it's likely to be detrimental to TTC instead of helpful. She notes that it's best for women to avoid taking Mucinex and it's best to rely on the normal, mid-cycle changes that occur naturally in most women.
Dr. Allison Hill, MD, OB-GYN and author of Your Pregnancy, Your Way, agrees to a point. She argues that while it may not be harmful to take while TTC, it most likely won't help. Hill tells Romper, "Yes, Mucinex is safe to take, but there is no scientific evidence that it improves fertility. The active ingredient guaifenesin is usually taken to thin the mucus in the lungs. It also can thin the cervical mucus, however there is no evidence that this helps people get pregnant."
If only safety were correlative with success, right?
If you're having trouble TTC, see a reproductive endocrinologist. I did, and I am forever grateful to my doctor for helping me bring my babies into the world. Old wives' tales, even modern ones, can often bring more issues than they do corrections. Chugging cough syrup, like Mucinex, when you aren't even sick, probably isn't the best way to try and get pregnant. If you actually want to help your cervical mucus, talk to your OB-GYN about what you can do while TTC.