It can be really hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to researching medication for pregnancy and fertility – although there are some really great products out there, there are also a lot of people looking to make a fast buck out of what used to be known as ‘snake oil.’ It’s important that you take your time, do your research and only make a decision when you are comfortable that you have all of the facts.
There are really two topics to discuss here –the first is whether it is safe to take Robitussin during pregnancy, and the other is whether or not it is true that you can use Robitussin for fertility. We’ll look at both topics in depth in this article, and examine the pros and cons of both concepts.
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Using Robitussin for Cold Relief During Pregnancy
First of all, what is Robitussin? Basically, it is what is known as an ‘expectorant’ (this is something that helps to break up and relieve the congestion during a chest cold), and also a cough suppressant. Its two active ingredients are Guaifenesin (the expectorant) and Dextromethorphan (the suppressant).
Some studies suggest that women are more likely to catch colds during pregnancy and that the colds tend to last longer. A possible reason for this is that during pregnancy, your immune system is suppressed (this is why you will often be offered flu vaccinations during pregnancy).
With that in mind, even if you would not usually consider taking medication for a cold, it’s something that you might want to do while you are carrying.
Is It Safe?
Of course, it’s only natural that you are concerned about the contents and ingredients of any medication that you take during your pregnancy. You may be thinking ‘can I take Robitussin while pregnant?’
The good news is, both active ingredients in Robitussin are generally thought of to be safe during pregnancy; one of the main concerns regarding cough and cold medications is that many of the liquid preparations contain alcohol. Fortunately, this is not the case with Robitussin.
However, some studies have suggested that it is better to avoid medication entirely during the first trimester of pregnancy (unless prescribed by your doctor – it is essential that you continue to take any prescribed medicine as normal unless your GP advises otherwise).
Although you may find this inconvenient, many very legitimate studies have suggested that cough syrups and expectorants have very little effect on the severity and duration of colds anyway.
This is, however, entirely down to personal choice – as already mentioned, both ingredients are safe to use during pregnancy, and if you feel that you have benefitted from Robitussin in the past, there is no reason why you cannot continue to take it during your pregnancy.
Alternatives to Shop Bought Medication
If you would like to avoid taking medication during the first trimester, there are other natural alternatives – many people find that steam baths are very effective at ‘lifting’ congestion. You may wish to try inhaling a natural congestion buster such as Olbas Oil or Tiger Balm from a tissue. If your sleep is being disrupted by congestion or coughing, using an extra pillow to lift your head and chest slightly higher can be very helpful.
Of course, with all illnesses, maintaining your hydration is very important – if you allow yourself to become dehydrated, it can exacerbate your symptoms and lead to other problems like headaches and lethargy, which will make you feel worse. You might find that drinking warm tea with honey not only helps to hydrate you but will ease some of your symptoms (particularly if you have a sore throat from coughing).
It is absolutely safe to take Robitussin during pregnancy if you so desire. However, some studies have suggested that it is better to avoid shop bought medication during the first trimester – if you would like to avoid it, there are many natural cold ‘remedies’ that will help ease the symptoms until you are feeling better.
As pregnancy can mean increased frequency and prolonged duration of the common cold, it’s completely understandable that you might feel that you need something to give yourself a boost. Particularly in late pregnancy, you may well be feeling tired and under the weather as it is, and having a severe cold can make you feel even worse.
As long as your GP has not told you that you cannot take the medication, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try it, particularly if you know that it has worked for you in the past.
As with any medication, if you are really concerned about the effects it is sensible to discuss them with your midwife or health care professional.
Robitussin and Fertility – Old Wives’ Tale or Clinical Fact?
The theory behind this is that Guaifenesin (one of the active ingredients in Robitussin) thins cervical mucus, making it easier for sperm to reach the womb and fertilize the egg. This belief has probably come about due to the fact that Guaifenesin is designed to thin the mucus that you develop on your lungs during a chest cold. Nobody is 100% sure how this theory came about, or who came up with it in the first place, but there are certainly a lot of people who swear by it as a fertility aid.
So, Does It Work?
Well, the short answer is that nobody knows – or at least, not in any way that they’re able to prove. If you look online, there are lots and lots of stories from women who have conceived using Robitussin – this, however, is anecdotal evidence.
Most fertility experts will tell you that although having thinner mucus probably does help with conception, the quality and quantity is just as important, and there is certainly no evidence that Robitussin has any effect on either of those.
What this means is that although these women very likely did conceive after taking the syrup, there is no scientific way of knowing whether Robitussin played any part in making it easier for the sperm to reach the egg.
Equally, though, there is no way of knowing that it didn’t! Until a medical facility decides to research the subject properly, using proper test conditions, it’s all just guess work.
Could It Be Dangerous?
As long as you follow the dosage instructions on the packet, there is no reason why it would be dangerous to use Robitussin as a fertility aid. As with any medication, whether it is prescription or non-prescription, ‘overdosing’ can be extremely dangerous and lead to long term health problems, or even death. At the very least, it will make you extremely ill, which apart from being a very unpleasant experience, will certainly not help your chances of conception.
However tempting it might seem just to take a little bit extra to amplify the effects, it’s not something that you should even consider risking; over the counter or not, it’s still medication. If you are concerned that you have taken too much of this (or any other medication!), you should seek medical advice immediately.
Although there is no evidence that Robitussin definitely leads to pregnancy, there is equally no evidence that it doesn’t help.
This is one of those situations whereby trying it will probably do no harm; the worst possible outcome is that you will not get pregnant. It is of course very important that you do not take too much of the syrup – follow the dosage instructions, and if you are in any doubt, talk to your health care practitioner, midwife or GP.
If you plan on using Robitussin long term (for longer than a few weeks), it is also probably prudent to take medical advice – it was developed to help ease the symptoms of the common cold, which usually only lasts a week or two. It is unlikely that there is much data on adverse effects of taking expectorant/suppressive medication long-term, as they were never designed to be used over a long-term period. With this in mind, if you do decide to use Robitussin month on month, you are essentially taking your chances.
There are other methods of thinning cervical mucus that you can use in conjunction with taking Robitussin; these include taking Evening Primrose Oil, avoiding dairy products and avoiding antihistamines. Again, although it is likely that these products will thin cervical mucus, there is no direct scientific evidence that this alone will help you to conceive. These medications are really about boosting your chances as much as possible, in order to give yourself the best possible opportunity to conceive.
If you are finding it difficult to get pregnant, your first stop should be at your local clinic or surgery. It is very important that underlying physical concerns are ruled out before you attempt any natural or prescription fertility boosters.
Having said all of that, there is no reason whatsoever why you shouldn’t give Robitussin a try – as previously stated, in low doses it won’t actually do you any harm.