Thursday, February 12, 2009

Morning Sickness Moonshine, or Black Market Bendectin: How to Make a No-Longer Marketed Anti-Nausea Drug

I've been meaning to post this for months! So here goes:

But first, a quick personal comment based on Anna's wise counsel in her last comment: The reason I was considering doing the doula training despite not being up to it is that this training is, remarkably, free - and the cost is generally $150-300 - so a chance to do it for free is quite a chance! But I have decided to be sensible and not do it. For one thing, I'm not dying to be a doula - I was just going to do it for fun and information. For another thing, Anna, you're quite right - I've noticed that a day of overexertion generally results in a few miserable days of going backwards, NVP-wise. For example, I spent most of the day after our move (when I really overdid it) throwing up. So farewell, doula training! Hopefully some other time.

Anyway, Bendectin:

Bendectin is an anti-nausea drug that was on the market in the U.S. from nineteen fifty-something until 1983, when it was voluntarily removed from the market by its manufacturers. The reason? Allegations that it was causing birth defects. That sounds quite alarming, but the evidence of history has not shown any correllation between its use and an increase in birth defects, and most OB's approve of its use. If you look at the graphs over time, you will see that upon Bendectin's removal from the market, the rate of birth defects remained steady while the rate of hospitalizations for NVP doubled. It has been thought that Bendectin was used by lawyers eager for financial gain as a reason to start suing, and so it was removed from the market.

So, is it safe? I don't know. I'm inclined to think so (after all, I'm using it!), but I have been a student of the medical/scientific world long enough to know that scientists can (and do) manipulate results to produce desired conclusions (i.e. "let's do a study to show that this drug is safe" instead of "let's do a study to see if this drug is safe"). So I'll leave the possibility up in the air, while the majority of my belief is that it is safe.


THEREFORE, YOU NEED TO DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION. Some people believe this medicine is safe; some believe it is hazardous to your child's health. If you decide to use this drug, make sure that you have done your research and come to your own conclusions. If you are unsure, err on the side of safety.


Bendectin is still on the market in Canada under the name Diclectin (and also, I believe, in the UK under yet another name), and there is at least one pharmacy that will mail-order to the US with a prescription. However, it's not really worth the cost and bother, since one can make it at home so easily. The only benefits of the real stuff are (1) convenience, and (2) time-release formula, which can't be duplicated at home.

And so, the recipe:

One Bendectin is:
10 mg Vitamin B6
10 mg Doxylamine Succinate, or Unisom - this is roughly half of one 25 mg tablet

* I always take the B6 in complex form (as B complex) rather than just B6. I also take more than 10 mg.
* There are two types of Unisom, so make sure you get the doxylamine succinate, and not the phenylhydrine gel caps
* Yes, Unisom is a sleeping aid, so you'll probably notice some drowsiness. It wears off in about 2 weeks, and I don't feel anything of it now (except for the normal exhaustion of pregnancy)

According to Motherisk (you can call them up and talk to them), here's how to start:
1 dose in the morning
1 dose midday
2 doses at bed time

That is for a total of 2 unisom, or 4 doses (each Unisom tab is 2 doses). You can move up to 6 doses (3 Unisom) if needed, and up to 8 under the guidance of a caregiver (and some people have gone higher).

Here are max dosages:
Vitamin B6 - 200 mg/day (don't forget to add your multi/prenatal in the sum)
Unisom - 75 mg/day (3 tabs, or 6 doses) - this can be variable

Here's what I'm doing right now:
1/2 tab Unisom, 50 mg B-complex, 8 mg Zofran morning
1/2 tab Unisom, 8 mg Zofran midday
1/2 tab Unisom, early evening
1 tab Unisom, 50 mg B-complex, 8 mg Zofran evening

That brings me up to 5 doses Unisom per day (2 1/2 tabs), and I'm hoping to be able to drop one soon.

Note: When you're ready to drop doses, do it GRADUALLY or you can quickly regress. Make sure you can handle dropping one dose before dropping another.

Bendectin is safe to take together with Zofran. That's what most people, myself included, do.

One OB I saw claimed that the max safe dose of Unisom is one tab (two doses) a day. That scared me, but after reviewing my notes from Motherisk and going onto, I consistently found that 3 tabs/day is considered completely safe.

Does it work? Yes. It did fine for me on its own for about a week and a half (4 weeks-5 weeks). After that it just wasn't good enough on its own and I had to break out the Zofran. Supposedly, Bendectin suppresses nausea and Zofran the vomitting. Well, I can tell you that there's some cross-over there, but they're a good combination. They've made my life livable, at least!

So.... Make your own decision!


  1. Great entry! I'm sending my mom and aunt your way to read this entry. They both took Bendectin with their first pregnancies and weren't able to take it in the second. My aunt had HG with all 3 of her pregnancies. I think they'll find your research VERY interesting!!
    I'm also glad you decided to take it easy and not do the training. Hopefully, the opportunity will come along again. You've just come so far, I'd hate to see a relapse! :) Keep us posted! You're still in my prayers!

  2. Thanks so much for posting this! I am thinking about trying it. I get so nervous about taking anything (I am still trying to navigate through this pregnancy on just one 4mg Zofran, 100 mg B6, and one Zantac 75 a day. And that seems like a lot. But reading that the bendectin can curb nausea may have swayed me.

    I'm glad you're taking it easy and not going to that class. You and Anna are so right about the HG worsening after a busy day. I was wondering how you deal with diaper changes--those are still very, very hard for me. And putting a bottle of milk together for my daughter still gets me very time.

    Hope you're continuing to feel well!

  3. Meet my new love Zantac! hahahha...
    It cures all the stomach acidity and reflux when I was pregnant. Got it at ZANTAC my friend, ZANTAC! It works wonders and always keep it handy at all times.

  4. thanks for the info, i'm about 8 weeks preg and struggling with HG myself..i've been proscribed zofran which helps some, and then last week i added unisom/b6. That really rocked my world and i'm dosing it all day just like you are.

    today i added what i think might be the final piece of the puzzle. Zantac - to deal with that nasty acid feeling.. so far so good.

  5. You should be careful about the breezy way that you publish a version of Bendectin. I had HG, as did my mother and my sister before me. I took Bendectin during my pregnancy. My child is an adult now. My child has a severe developmental disability, has never walked around the block alone, cannot be left alone, takes 5 medications for epilepsy, has had no sign of sexual maturation, will never have children, and has developed complications from epilepsy that include terrifying psychotic episodes.

  6. Dear Rabbittt, Thanks so much for your warning. I have taken your advice and posted a further warning on this entry. It is definitely an issue for informed consent. I am comfortable with using Bendectin, but I want everyone to make a decision based on personal research and not have cause for future regret.
    Thanks for reading,

  7. Thank you. I am sorry for being so sharp. Something snapped in me last night. In the light of day, I feel bad about posting my comment. Normally I don't define my child by what is wrong, but by what is right. There is a lot to love about my child and I have learned a lot about life from being a mother of someone so special.
    I know intellectually that no one knows why a child is born with unexplainable birth defects. On another level, there is always the question - is it something I did? That's why, at even this late point, I was researching Bendectin - looking for support from other mothers, who, like me, will never be an 'empty-nester'.
    It would be alright with me if you remove my comments. Take care.

  8. No worries at all! Please don't worry about it. I really want people to see both sides of it anyhow! Bendectin has not been proven either safe or unsafe, so I want people to consider both possibilities and come to terms with the possible outcomes of either usage or nonusage. I appreciate your perspective.

    Best wishes to you and your family!
    D. :)

  9. My son is 33 and a Bendectin Baby. I was told he would be minimally functional at age 6. Through many interventions, meds, therapies and foot surgeries, he graduated from college and lives on his own. He is still hampered by his disabilities. I took Bendectin early in my pregnancy with him. His older sister, 35, I also took it, but later in my pregnancy and she is bipolar. I have had 2 healthy children since. It is not worth the risk to take any drugs during pregnancy. It is just not worth it.
    Alison, RN, Infant Mental Health Specialist

  10. Thanks so much for your research!! can you tell me what B6 brand you like?

  11. Hi, Janie! I usually use a B-complex, rather than just B6 - that's a personal preference. I usually just use Sprouts brand B-complex, as it's cheaper (especially when I'm taking SO many supplements), but I'm sure it's not the top. Someone to ask would be "Knocked Up, Knocked Over" (see link on sidebar) - I believe she had specific brand recommendations (also, as her HG was much MUCH more severe than mine, she has greater experience with supplement efficacy). Good luck!!

  12. Thank you SO MUCH for this information. I'm 11 weeks pregnant and cannot stop throwing up - even with a 4mg dose of Zofran. I didn't know I could take 8 mg. My mom took Bendectin with 2 pregnancies (no problems at all), then it was off the market for her third and she was miserably sick through the entire 9 months. She has been hounding me to take Bendectin, but I can't find it. Now I know what to do!

  13. Kimberly - Good luck!! And yes, you can take much more Zofran than 4 mg. With my 2nd and 3rd times through, I have taken 24 mg per day. Just WATCH OUT for the side-affects (and take colace if you notice ANY problems, to avoid complications). I hope you feel better soon!!

  14. I took this medication during my first pregnancy in 1970. I do not remember the dose. My daughter was born with club feet! She had surgery at age 9, age 12, and age 13. She is 42 now and has heart problems that currently she is going through more tests. I had 2 other healthy babies but no nausea.

    Don't risk the birth defects!

  15. Andrewamyzj - Good points. It's hard to tell what's coincidental and what's not. I have two babies who were exposed prenatally to Bendectin. One is completely normal, and one has severe problems. Was Bendectin involved? I don't know, but I would prefer not to take it. However, there is a point at which something has to be done or the mother's life is at risk. That's the very difficult balancing act. And, as a matter of fact, that's why I am working very hard on finding dietary and lifestyle factors that contribute to HG, so that I can hopefully have future drug-free pregnancies. I would MUCH rather do that than rely on the drugs, for sure. Thank you for your input, and for stopping by!

    Alison - I'm just now seeing your comment, THREE YEARS later - I am SO sorry. Thank you for sharing your experience, and the warning. I completely agree that drugs should be avoided unless there is no other option, and again, that's why I'm working on finding those other options. In fact, both of you, check my blog in the next three days to find out something really exciting I'm going to be sharing!

    I have to admit that I used to be much more cavalier about taking drugs during pregnancy. Now that I have a severely impaired child, I am NOT. There are times when it simply can't be avoided, but I'm much more cautious and conservative now.

    Thanks for checking in!

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    1. I deleted this comment as SPAM - my apologies if it was a legitimate comment.


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