Sleep is hard to come by for many pregnant women. Between the aches and pains, the vivid pregnancy dreams, and the constant need to go to the bathroom, it’s a wonder any pregnant woman can get any sleep at all.
With so many interruptions during the night, it’s no wonder that many women turn to sleep aids to help get some much needed shut eye. While “natural” drugs. In this post we ask the question, is Melatonin safe during pregnancy?
What Is Melatonin?
The hormone melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland within the center of the brain, which aids in the regulation of our sleep cycles and keeping the human body on a 24-hour cycle, otherwise known as circadian rhythm.
Its production is stimulated by darkness and is highly praised for its ability to help people sleep naturally.
However, experts are unclear on the effects the hormone has on the reproductive system within women, and so it is unclear if it safe to take during pregnancy or not.
The level of melatonin that is found in a woman’s bloodstream typically varies throughout her monthly cycle.
Despite a number of studies showing a positive correlation between successful in vitro fertilization and melatonin consumption, experts suggest that pregnant women steer clear of the sleep aid, although no clear negative effects have been linked.
Melatonin can be found in many drug stores as a dietary supplement as well as a natural sleep aid. The suggested dosage is higher than that which is normally produced by the human body, with a single dosage increasing Melatonin levels in the bloodstream to 20 times the normal level.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not in charge of monitoring melatonin because it is not classified as a drug or hormone.
Is Melatonin Safe During Pregnancy?
While melatonin is sold as a “natural” remedy, natural cures are not always safe for use during pregnancy. Despite the fact that melatonin is naturally occurring within the human body, when it comes in the form of a sleep aid it increases the amount present in the body by such a large quantity that it is unknown what the effects of this are on an unborn developing fetus.
One study performed on animals found that an increased use of melatonin during pregnancy had direct negative effects on maternal weight, the birth weight of the baby, and baby mortality.
As such, it is suggested that pregnant women consult their physician before taking melatonin on their own.
However, it is widely believed that melatonin is safe for pregnant women to take as a sleep aid in doses of 3 milligrams or less. If you choose to take melatonin while pregnant, you should make your doctor aware so any complications can be avoided.
What are the Benefits of Melatonin During Pregnancy?
Melatonin is naturally made within the body of pregnant women in high amounts in both the ovaries and the placenta, which makes use of the hormone throughout pregnancy as well as during delivery. Levels of the hormone rise both after 24 weeks gestation and again after 32 weeks.
The hormone works with oxytocin to aid in the delivery process. In addition, babies make use of the melatonin found within the mother’s amniotic fluid while they are in utero through the first 9-12 weeks of life.
Here’s What The Research Suggests
Recent research suggests that there are many additional benefits to melatonin usage while pregnant. Results of this research show that melatonin can aid in the reduction of oxidative stress.
Melatonin supplementation has also been found to decrease the risk of pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth, as well as intrauterine growth retardation (IGR).
However, most of this research has been performed on animals, with studies on humans still in its early stages. Preliminary research suggests that increasing the amount of melatonin within the body could have benefits with fertilization rates and embryo quality, which could be due to a decrease in damage from oxidation.
Research performed on animals has found additional positive effects on melatonin use during the development of the fetus. After week 24 of pregnancy, melatonin production within the body at night begins to increase.
Evidence suggests that melatonin plays an important role in the creation of circadian rhythm within the developing fetus.
In addition, it is known that the placenta produces melatonin, which is considered to be an important part of a normal, healthy pregnancy.
Despite this, experts still suggest pregnant women turn to medications that are known for their reproductive safety to help them sleep, as not enough research on melatonin use in pregnant women currently exist.
Instead, doctors suggest several other ideas for pregnant women who are in need of a little extra shut-eye, including:
- Turning screens off for at least one hour before bedtime, meditation,
- Restricting sugar and sweeteners (including things like Stevia) 90-minutes before bed
- Investing in blackout curtains,
- Turning the thermostat to 65 degrees at night
- Consistently going to bed at the same time
By following a good bedtime routine, you set yourself up for a good nights rest.
Resources and Further Reading
- Can I Take Melatonin While Pregnant?
- Is It Safe to Take Melatonin During Pregnancy?
- Is It Safe to Take Melatonin While Pregnant?
We know that it can be tough to get your 40 winks when you’re pregnant and that it can be tempting to reach for aides as soon as you can’t sleep. So, is Melatonin safe during pregnancy? Well, the jury is still out on that one so it might be best to avoid for now.
Ellen Fetters, is a former Children's and Young People's Nursing Practice with an BSc from the University of Sunderland. After completing her SCPHN - HV she then worked as a Health Visitor within the local community.
In 2017 Ellen left nursing to launch Parenting Click, an online parenting resource aimed at creating happier families through better parenting.
She lives with her husband, beautiful baby girl, and two darling dogs. She spends her free time writing, running and learning how to become a better parent.