Everything involved with menstruation, fertility, and pregnancy is way more complicated than that 7th-grade health class made it seem. Whether you’re trying to avoid getting pregnant or aching to conceive, everyone has advice about what you should do. And while some of what you hear has merit, you’ll also hear *a lot* of things that make you think, Wait, really? Take, for instance, the recent viral claim that taking the expectorant Mucinex can make you more fertile.
The recent ruckus started on TikTok when Bloom birth control app co-founder Julia Schuller dropped a wild correlation between fertility and Mucinex. “Basically, the first time that I had COVID, I was just starting tracking my ‘fertile signs’ because I wasn’t taking any birth control,” she explains. “So, I was trying to determine what my fertile window was, and I noticed that when I was taking Mucinex for having COVID, my fertile signs went way up.”
Wait, wait, wait… what?! Confused, Schuller says she called her doctor, who reportedly revealed that they actually recommend Mucinex to women who are trying to get pregnant to “help them get pregnant.” Thus leading to, years later, Schuller issuing a warning to TikTok: “Since COVID is going around again, I just wanted to remind you guys if you’re not on birth control and you’re taking Mucinex, be careful.”
Is taking Mucinex really the best choice for your body and your health? Will it help you conceive if, say, the issue is related to the sperm you’re using and not your own body? I reached out to a doctor to find out the answer to these questions (and more).
Why do people think Mucinex makes you fertile?
Mucinex, like all medicine, is made up of multiple ingredients. One of its active ingredients is guaifenesin, which thins and loosens your mucus or phlegm when you’re sick. According to TikTok, guaifenesin works the same way on your cervical mucus. The idea is simple: If it thins your cervical mucus, it makes it easier to get pregnant. So, guaifenesin doesn’t actually make you fertile. But theoretically, it might make you slightly more fertile by thinning the cervical mucus and making it easier for sperm to enter.
This isn’t just a lesson in correlation vs. causation, though. Actual research was done on the effects of guaifenesin on women’s fertile window.
“The misconception that Mucinex may improve fertility comes from a small study in 1982. Back then, it was believed that ‘hostile cervical mucus’ was a cause of infertility. The thought was that giving a medication known to loosen mucus in the body would help improve fertility,” explains Dr. Kara McElligott, an OB-GYN, MD, MPH, NAMS certified menopause practitioner, and the US-based medical advisor at Mira (an at-home fertility monitor).
“Guaifenesin, the drug in Mucinex that loosens up mucus in the sinuses, was given to the women in that study,” she continues. “The researchers then examined the cervical mucus and reported improvement in how the cervical mucus looked. It is important to note that this study was too small and not designed well enough to prove that guaifenesin changes cervical mucus or helps couples get pregnant.”
Can guaifenesin make you more fertile?
Not likely. “According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), infertility because of cervical mucus, or the interaction between cervical mucus and sperm, is rare,” says McElligot. “On top of that, the test for hostile cervical mucus used in 1982 has been eliminated from medical practice because it is subjective (e.g., if two different people looked at the same test, they could get different results based on opinion or bias). The test also did not predict the ability to conceive.”
Is it harmful to try Mucinex to aid in getting pregnant?
The science may ~loosely~ support the premise that Mucinex makes you “more fertile,” but it’s never as simple as it seems. And experts like McElligot warn against trying this method.
“While taking guaifenesin is safe to take in pregnancy, or when trying to conceive, it has not been shown to improve fertility,” McElligot says, stressing how important it is for consumers to check the label before taking any medication while trying to conceive. “Mucinex products may also contain dextromethorphan. Dextromethorphan is a Pregnancy Category C drug associated with birth defects in animal research.”
What are better ways to help your body get pregnant?
McElligot shares some common sense tips to help ready your body for pregnancy and make the best use of your fertile window: “Eat a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and get routine exercise. Do not smoke tobacco products. Keep caffeine intake to less than two cups of coffee (or equivalent) daily. Take a daily multivitamin containing folic acid.”
McElligot also recommends making sure you’re timing everything properly. Whether you use one of those pee-on-a-stick fertility trackers, monitor and track your basal temperature, or use technology like the app and device from Mira, knowing when you’re fertile and timing your conception process accordingly will go a long way in helping you conceive.
“Time sexual intercourse or insemination to begin ~24 hours before the expected date of ovulation,” suggests McElligot. “If using a lubricant, choose one designed to support conception.”
If you’re taking McElligot’s advice, talking to your primary care physician, and still having trouble conceiving, it might be time to take a look at your hormones — certain hormone levels can not only affect mood and overall health but also reduce fertility.