Start-up PregPrep says it's offering women an inexpensive option to help the birds and the bees.
"Couples are currently spending $5 billion annually on fertility, and there are no affordable options," PregPrep co-founder Marjorie Goldner tells CNBC. "Our solution [is] PregPrep, the first over-the-counter product developed for any woman ready to have a baby."
Dr. Lara Oboler, an interventional cardiologist at New York's Lenox Hill hospital, was in her mid-30s when she was ready to start a family. But things weren't moving as quickly as she would have liked.
She started researching and came across mucolytics, a type of drug generally used to break up chest congestion. She found that it can also thin cervical mucus, in turn, making it easier for sperm to swim to an egg. In fact, birth control pills that contain progesterone actually have the opposite effect. They thicken cervical mucus.
Oboler claims she got pregnant one month after using a mucolytic. She concluded that this was an option that should be made available to all women. So she joined forces with her sister-in-law, Goldner, a former marketing executive, to start PregPrep in 2010.
Their product, the Complete Conception Kit, launched at the end of 2012. It comes over the counter and retails for $29.99. The kit contains a one-month supply of two different supplements. VitaPrep is packed with vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folic acid. FertilPrep is the mucolytic and contains the active ingredient N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).
"N-acetyl cysteine, which is our main ingredient in our FertilPrep, has been studied in placebo-controlled randomized trials," Oboler said. "And it has shown that in women with PCOS [polycystic ovarian syndrome] which is the most common cause of infertility, N-acetyl cysteine increases their chances by 3 1/2 times to get pregnant."
Since the Complete Conception Kit is considered a supplement, it does not require FDA approval. But the company's website claims years of careful research and guidance from top OB/GYNs went into creating the kit. The founders told CNBC the PregPrep is for all women who want to get pregnant, and not just women struggling to conceive or may be suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS.
The product is available in 2,300 CVS stores as well as other pharmacies. Goldner said they will be in 7,000 CVS stores by next year and are in talks with Walgreens. Customers can also buy online on the company's website or other retailers such as Amazon.com.
Dr. Jackie Walters, OB/GYN and cast member of Bravo's "Married to Medicine" questioned the company's push to cast such a wide net of customers. "There are different reasons for infertility, and of course PCOS is one of them … [but] it's not considered infertility until after 12 months."
However, Goldner said the odds are stacked against even healthy women. She referenced a 2012 study, conducted by Warwick Medical School in the UK. Researchers there found that 25-year-old women who have been trying for three months, have an 18 percent chance of getting pregnant in their next cycle. That number drops to 7 percent by the time a woman is 40.
"PregPrep is really for any of the seven million women in the U.S. alone that are trying to conceive…so right now PregPrep is the only option available for healthy women to help them nudge nature along and have all the right nutrients in their body pre-conception. And the natural mucolytic helps them get pregnant more quickly," Goldner said.
The self-funded company was founded in 2010, and the founders said they have sold over 7,000 kits to date.