Note: Please do not take anything other than for its intended use without consulting a doctor or healthcare professional.
Summer may be on its way out and for most of us, that means the return of cold and flu season. But some women are stocking up on cough syrup for a completely different reason other than to soothe their scratchy throats and persistent coughs.
That's right, some women are claiming that this common household item is helping them to become pregnant. But how?
According to Dr. Amin Gafar, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at BabyCenter, many cough syrup brands - including Robitussin - contain an ingredient called guaifenesin, which works to thin mucus in your airway, therefore alleviating congestion and chesty coughs. But guaifenesin doesn't work on just the mucus in your airway - it actually helps to thin all the mucus membranes throughout your body including - that's right - your cervical mucus.
Around the time a woman ovulates, her cervical mucus typically becomes thinner and wetter, which enables sperm to safely make it to the egg. For some women, this isn't always the case and as a result, they may have a harder time conceiving - which is why some have turned to Robitussin.
Some critics, however, are quick to point out the flaws in this approach, including dispelling the belief that cough syrup doesn't actually increase your fertility. While it may make your mucous a little more slippery than usual, it won't make you more fertile. According to Parents.com, the quantity of mucus is just as important as its consistency, and cough syrup does not affect quantity. And while there have been recent studies that identified that perhaps taking guaifenesin increases sperm motility in some patients, many doctors still warn against its use, claiming that success stories are largely anecdotal and the side effects of taking cough medicine for anything other than a cough could be harmful.
Tell that to Meghan O'Brien.
Back in 2010, the Vancouver area 29-year-old was struggling to conceive. For over a year and a half, she had seen fertility specialist after fertility specialist, and undergone tests and procedures to determine just what was wrong. After receiving no concrete answers as to why they were unable to conceive, O'Brien and her husband Jon turned to Robitussin after her sister suggested it.
"In our case, it was like, 'Why not?'" she said. "The one month I skeptically took it, it worked."
The O'Briens are not alone. Colette Bouchez, a U.S. medical journalist and co-author of the bestselling book Getting Pregnant, believes that for many couples, simple remedies such as taking cough syrup several times a day around ovulation time can be effective.
"It's not a cure-all for every fertility problem," she said. "[But] the truth is, for many women, it works."