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The Secret Trick to Getting Pregnant—Now in a Bottle

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When it comes to getting pregnant, there are so many old wives' tales that people advise: put your legs up after having sex, lie in bed for a half an hour, eat pineapple five days after sex (or embryo transfer) etc. etc. etc. Some have scientific merit, others are superstitions and methods handed down from older generations and different cultures.

But there's one easy and inexpensive method that many parents and even some doctors stand by (although by the time you reach fertility clinics they're more likely to move you into treatment rather than share this secret):

Cough syrup.

Yup, regular over-the-counter Robitussin—or any expectorant—taken before ovulation really does the trick. Here's how it works: Normally, cervical mucus transports the sperm to the uterus, where it can fertilize an egg. But unusually thick mucus can prevent sperm from reaching its destination—that's how some birth controls work, actually.

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The active ingredient in cough syrup, guaifenesin, loosens the mucus in your lungs when you have a bad cough, and also loosens the cervical mucus making the trip for the sperm easier and faster. (It's also helpful to women taking Clomid, whose side effects may be to thicken cervical mucus.)

But there are some downsides: It's not clear what dose to take exactly, when and how often, and if you take the wrong cough syrup—one with other ingredients, you might dry up your mucus completely.

But, Oboler warns, this is not a cure for couples with serious fertility problems (and neither is cough medicine.)

Now a new product on the market aims to do the same thing but more safely and easily: Preg Prep also promises to thin cervical mucus, but instead of using guaifenesin, uses N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) also a mucolic. "It's extremely safe and with no side effects," says Preg Prep co-founder, Dr Lara Oboler a cardiologist at Lennox Hill Hospital who had used cough medicine to conceive her three children.

Why make the switch in ingredients?

"For me, as a doctor, my motto is 'do no harm.'" Guaifenesin, she said, is a class-C drug—meaning not safe for pregnant women. So if you happen to be pregnant and don't know it and try taking the cough medicine to get pregnant, you might be doing damage. On the other hand, NACs are antioxidants often used to treat conditions like Cycstic Fibrosis and PCOS, are Class B drugs—not proven to be unsafe for pregnant women.

Moreoever, Preg Prep includes specific doses and the times you can take it—two days before ovulation through ovulation (Vitamins are included in the packet, but ovulation kits are not.)

But, Oboler warns, this is not a cure for couples with serious fertility problems (and neither is cough medicine.) "This is not for infertility. This is for women who are ready to get pregnant and this tries to nudge nature along and give them the best shot," she said.

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"If you have a medical problem or you've been trying for six months, you should see a doctor," she said.

Oboler herself had been trying for some time to get pregnant at the age of 34, thinking it was going to be easy then worrying it would never happen, especially with 35 looming. She went to a fertility clinic, ready to start treatment, when they told her she was pregnant. "Did you take a mucolic?" the doctor had asked her—he knew.

"I hope I can save some women from going through what I went through," she said.

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