For expecting mothers, maintaining good health and being conscious of what they consume is a common practice that reflects on the well-being of their newborn child. With how common headaches, body pain, and overall discomfort can be during pregnancy, it is unsurprising that pain relievers in the form of acetaminophen are widely consumed to combat them. But like anything else, especially medication, too much of it can eventually do more harm than good over time. An overdose of acetaminophen can damage the liver and negatively impact the health of a pregnant woman and her child.
However, acetylcysteine can help prevent this from happening and even aids other health concerns as well. In fact, acetylcysteine has more beneficial side effects in pregnant women other than just its normal medicinal uses. But what exactly is acetylcysteine, and how does it affect pregnancy?
What Is Acetylcesteine?
N-Acetylcysteine (N-AC) is a naturally occurring amino acid solution that acts as a mucolytic agent, meaning it can help clear mucus in the body that may interfere with functions like breathing. It is typically administered through a nebulizer, which is an atomizer machine that delivers a mist of the medication, much like an inhaler. It can also be taken orally in the form of a powder tablet.
What Are Side Effects of Taking Acetylcysteine?
Some of the most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, runny or stuffy nose, shortness of breath, disagreeable odor from the mouth, and irritation of the tracheal tract.
What Does It Treat?
For patients dealing with lung disease, pneumonia, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, and tracheostomy care, taking acetylcysteine solution can help clear mucus obstructing the airways that make it difficult to breathe. In the case of drug toxicity, it can also be an antidote to acetaminophen overdose, which might result in acute liver failure. It works by restoring the amount of hepatic glutathione in the liver, a powerful and crucial antioxidant produced by cells responsible for detoxifying and eliminating poisons in the body. Acute liver damage can be fatal, especially for pregnant women, but acetylcysteine is FDA approved and safe for consumption. While a doctor must prescribe the use of N-AC with a nebulizer, tablets that can be taken orally are found easily in stores.
Benefits During Pregnancy
More recent studies have begun to show that women who take N-AC have improved live birth rates and increased rates of conception. The effects of acetylcysteine in pregnancy can also potentially carry over to a newborn infant, as samples of cord blood show N-AC crosses over the placenta and into the child’s circulation.
So, does this mean that taking acetylcysteine will affect umbilical cord stem cells if parents decide to bank their newborn’s cord blood? Not quite. If N-AC is taken, it is still possible for a family stem cell bank to collect and extract the baby’s stem cells immediately after delivery.
In one study, it was shown that infants exposed to N-AC around 24 weeks of gestation had an increase of an anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective protein with no other adverse effects. It has also been documented that prenatal exposure counteracts both short-term and long-term negative effects of a Western high-fat diet, which creates metabolic stress. This resulted in greater glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity whilst reducing the number of leptin hormones, which can lead to resistance, inflammation, and obesity.
Another study also concluded that intrapartum exposure to N-AC resulted in reduced prematurity-related morbidity. This meant infants exposed had significantly improved status at birth and needed less intensive care than those with a placebo in the same trial. Acetylcysteine might also prove helpful for women dealing with recurrent pregnancy loss or a recent miscarriage. One trial has concluded that the antioxidant properties of N-AC are believed to be linked to suppressing oxidative stress that might initiate during a pregnancy. As more research is conducted, the positive outcomes of acetylcysteine in pregnancy have become more prominent.
Overall, the use of acetylcysteine during pregnancy is safe and could have benefits that improve the health of both the mother and child in ways still being explored. And just to reiterate, if you are considering preserving your baby’s stem cells, taking acetylcysteine will not impact the collection process. However, it is important to discuss these details and your birth plan with a medical professional.
If you have questions about cord blood or cord tissue banking or the collection process, do not hesitate to contact us.