There's plenty to be excited about early on in your pregnancy. But one of the less fun additions to your life at that time may be morning sickness—a topic that both Kim Kardashian and Jana Kramer recently posted about on Instagram, including the suggestion that a new drug called Bonjesta may ease those symptoms.
Kardashian didn’t specifically say that she took Bonjesta during her last pregnancy—rather, she said “it’s a new formulation of the drug combination I took that’s made to work faster & longer.” She previously did an Instagram ad for Diclegis, which is also designed to treat morning sickness.
Kramer, however, said in an Instagram ad that Bonjesta helped her “manage my #morningsickness after diet & lifestyle changes didn’t work.”
Both made it pretty clear that they were paid to promote this drug. But it’s understandable that you might be at least little curious about it—especially if you're dealing with morning sickness these days.
Bonjesta is technically a new drug, but the active ingredients in it have been used for years.
Bonjesta contains doxylamine succinate (an antihistamine found in over-the-counter sleep aids) and pyridoxine hydrochloride (the chemical name for a form of vitamin B6), which are the same active ingredients found in Diclegis. In fact, Bonjesta is really just a reformulation of Diclegis, Dean Hopkins, general manager for Duchesnay USA, the company that makes both drugs, tells SELF.
Although Diclegis contains 10 milligrams each of doxylamine and pyridoxine hydrochloride in a delayed-release tablet, Bonjesta contains 20 milligrams of each ingredient in an extended-release tablet. So if you take Bonjesta, you only take up to two tablets a day (one in the morning and one at bedtime), whereas with Diclegis, you’d take up to four tablets (one in the morning, one in the mid-afternoon, and two at bedtime).
But the ingredients in both drugs can be found at your local pharmacy and have been used for a long time to combat morning sickness, Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School, tells SELF. “This is actually an ancient drug combination,” she says.
It's not uncommon for doctors to recommend that patients try a combination of vitamin B6 during the day and Unisom (an antihistamine containing doxylamine) at night to help try to combat tough morning sickness, echoing recommendations from the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG), Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, tells SELF.
Because Bonjesta combines the two medications and has a delayed release, some people may find it to be a more convenient option rather than repeatedly having to take a combination of medications, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a minimally invasive gynecologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF.
Data supporting this drug combo date back to the 1950s, when the FDA first approved it as a drug known as Bendectin.
However, several lawsuits and studies later claimed that the drug was linked with birth defects, and it was voluntarily taken off of the market in the 1980s. It eventually emerged again under a new formulation in 2013 as Diclegis.
More recently, a 2010 randomized, placebo-controlled trial published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology followed 256 women (131 were given Diclectin, another form of this drug combo sold in Canada, and 125 were given a placebo) and found that the combination of doxylamine succinate and pyridoxine hydrochloride is "effective and well tolerated in treating nausea and vomiting of pregnancy." After the study, nearly half (48.9 percent) of those who'd received the drug asked to keep using it while only 32.8 percent of those receiving the placebo asked the same.
Bonjesta isn’t designed to be your first line of defense against morning sickness.
For the record, ACOG defines “mild” morning sickness as feeling nauseated for a short time each day and maybe vomiting once or twice. In more severe cases, the nausea usually lasts longer and you’ll likely vomit more often. However, the organization recommends talking to your doctor about your morning sickness if it’s interfering with your life, regardless of how mild or severe you think it is.
If you have morning sickness, doctors will usually recommend that you first try to make diet and lifestyle modifications like eating crackers, sipping on ginger ale, and eating small, frequent meals instead of three meals a day, Dr. Shepherd says. While that may work for a mild case of morning sickness, it probably won’t do the trick for more severe cases. If you’re still struggling, your doctor will likely recommend that you take vitamin B6, Dr. Greves says.
If that doesn’t do the trick, ACOG recommends adding doxylamine to the mix—or taking a drug that combines the two, like Bonjesta. “Both drugs—taken alone or together—have been found to be safe to be taken during pregnancy and have no harmful effects on the baby,” ACOG says on its website. However, it's not clear whether Bonjesta can ease the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, which causes severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Of course, this is a drug and all drugs have potential side effects.
The most common side effect is drowsiness, according to the Bonjesta website, so you shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery while you’re taking it. The drug may also cause an incorrect positive in urine drug screening tests for methadone, opiates, and PCP, according to the drug website.
But overall, the doctors we spoke to say they have no problems recommending this to patients. “Women need to feel OK during pregnancy and if this helps them, great,” Dr. Minkin says.