Summary: A new over-the-counter so-called “pregnancy pill” maybe hitting a drugstore near you that promises to help more couples to conceive. It’s called PregPrep, and it contains n-acetyl cysteine (NAC), an antioxidant that loosens women’s cervical fluid to help sperm swim to the egg. The PregPrep conception kit contains both a daily multivitamin and mucolytic, which helps thin out and break down cervical mucus. But does this fertility treatment actually work?
Sometimes getting pregnant isn’t as easy as you planned. Maybe you’ve decided that you’re ready to start trying and a few months later you’re beginning to get antsy. While you’re not ready for fertility treatments — which can be costly and burdensome — you’re looking for a little something to boost your odds.
A new over-the-counter pregnancy pill called PregPrep promises to be just the boost you need. The kit includes a pill that contains n-acetyl cysteine (NAC), an antioxidant that is supposed to thin cervical mucus and make it easier for sperm to make the trek to fertilize an egg. The kit also contains VitaPrep, a daily multivitamin containing folic acid, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
The product is designed by Dr. Lara Oboler, a cardiologist who struggled to get pregnant. After researching natural fertility methods she came across research that showed cough syrups used to break up chest congestion also thinned cervical mucus. Making cervical mucus thinner, in turn, makes it easier for the sperm to swim to the egg. According to Dr. Oboler, after taking the mucolytic in the week leading up to ovulation, much to her surprise she found out she was pregnant.
But according to Dr. Eric Surrey, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, there’s little data to show NAC’s efficacy. NAC is a supplement that doesn’t have to be approved by the FDA, and therefore supporting research isn’t necessary to bring the product to market. Prior to PregPrep, NAC was available in a supplement form, but it wasn’t specifically packaged for use in fertility. In fact, in the past, NAC was actually used to treat acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning from damaging the liver.
“While some data may show that NAC boosts sperm counts, nothing has shown that it boosts mobility,” says Dr. Surrey. “And while really good logic may show why this can work, there’s little data to prove it.”
Dr. Surrey does recommend other antioxidant regimens to women with various diagnosed fertility problems in his own practice: Myo-inositol, which has some published data showing it can help women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). While most data is based on studies in animals, some research has shown that it can improve the quality of eggs in women doing in vitro fertilization (IVF).
L-arginine is also an essential amino acid that helps with cell division. It’s been shown to help women with poor responses to IVF. Other antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C and melatonin have all been shown to help women with diagnosed fertility issues. But Dr. Surrey stresses that he does not use NAC is his practice.
“I would very much caution women who don’t have diagnosed fertility issues from taking NAC supplements,” says Dr. Surrey. “In fact, it can impact blood clotting in women going in for surgery because it’s a blood thinner.”
What this means to you. The current recommendations for women trying to get pregnant is taking a prenatal vitamin, but be cautious about taking additional supplements before talking to your health care provider. Supplements often don’t have the adequate data to back them up, and taking something before you know you have an issue may actually do more harm than good. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, eat healthy, limit alcohol and caffeine consumption, and become well versed in your ovulation schedule so you know the best times to try and conceive. If you’re under the age of 35 and have been trying to conceive for one year, you should talk to your doctor (less time if you’re over 35 or have other risk factors).