Can You Take Melatonin While Pregnant? Benefits vs. Risks
- Many pregnant women suffer from sleep difficulties due to a combination of physical and emotional factors.
- Melatonin plays an important role during pregnancy and the delivery of your baby.
- Melatonin is often recommended as a dietary supplement to support better sleep, which raises the question: Can you take melatonin while pregnant?
- While there are studies that indicate melatonin may benefit mothers and babies, there are also other studies that show there is some risk.
- There are other steps you can take to improve your sleep quality, without taking a melatonin supplement.
If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably spent many a night tossing and turning in discomfort. That’s not surprising considering you’re growing a human inside you. Despite knowing it’s fairly normal, you’ve probably longed for relief — which may have led you to wonder: Can you take melatonin while pregnant?
Many people take melatonin as a supplement to treat insomnia or help decrease the symptoms of jet lag. In fact, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2012, melatonin is one of the most-used natural products in the United States.
Let’s explore what melatonin is and how it works, especially the role of melatonin during pregnancy. We’ll also look at some benefits and risks of melatonin supplementation to help us evaluate whether melatonin is safe during pregnancy.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycles — otherwise known as your circadian rhythm. It’s naturally secreted by the pineal gland and then circulated throughout the body. When darkness falls, it activates, making you feel sleepy as you prepare for bed. Then when the sun comes up, it switches off, helping you to wake up.
Melatonin also has an additional role to play for pregnant women. The placenta and ovaries produce extra melatonin, which women’s bodies use during pregnancy and for a while after they give birth.
Let’s explore the role of melatonin during pregnancy:
- At 24 weeks of pregnancy, your melatonin levels naturally increase, then they rise again at 32 weeks. That melatonin crosses the placenta and is found in your amniotic fluid, and in turn entrains the circadian rhythm of the developing fetus.
- Although much more research is needed, initial studies indicate that melatonin is involved in fetal development in several ways:
- It promotes healthy brain development, reducing the chances of neurological problems and neurobehavioral disorders, such as autism and cerebral palsy.
- It acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage due to oxidative stress.
- It may reduce the risk of intrauterine growth retardation, also known as fetal growth restriction. This affects the baby’s growth rate, so they may be smaller than they should be for that stage of pregnancy.
- Then when it’s time to deliver your baby, melatonin and oxytocin work together to support the process of labor.
- Postpartum, if you’re breastfeeding, your baby gets melatonin from your breast milk for the first few months of its life.
This is a very natural process, but if you’re wondering whether it means you can take extra melatonin while you’re pregnant, that’s worth some further investigation.
Pregnant Women and Sleep
Research shows that many women suffer from sleep problems while pregnant, from the first trimester all the way through to the third trimester. This is probably a combination of physical discomfort and hormonal changes. Also, because women’s mental health is affected by pregnancy, you may be feeling anxious about both the process and your upcoming motherhood — none of which help you sleep.
The role of melatonin includes managing our sleep cycles and under normal circumstances, supplementing with melatonin certainly seems to promote sleep, especially if you have a sleep disorder.
Melatonin is also heavily involved in pregnancy, so at first glance, it may seem like a natural solution to sleep problems.
Yes, melatonin is a natural hormone, but it still begs the question — can you take melatonin while pregnant? After all, it’s available as an over-the-counter sleep aid, so surely it’s safe?
Melatonin Dietary Supplements: Are They Safe for Pregnant Women?
So far, only very limited research has been conducted on pregnant women to investigate the effects of melatonin. However, some of these, as well as several animal studies, indicate that pregnant mothers may benefit from supplementing with melatonin.
For example, studies show that melatonin may improve uterine and placental health, boosting fertility and helping to keep both you and your baby safe during pregnancy. It also seems to decrease the risks of preterm birth, as well as endometriosis and preeclampsia — a serious condition associated with high blood pressure and sometimes too much protein in the urine.
However, when we’re looking at the question “can you take melatonin while pregnant?,” we need to weigh those benefits against the risks. There are several things to consider here:
Research shows that melatonin is most likely safe for (non-pregnant) humans in the short-term. We don’t yet have a clear picture of the long-term effects though, as they simply haven’t yet been studied enough.
Melatonin Levels in Your Body
Melatonin supplements usually contain 1-3 milligrams of melatonin. This massively increases the levels of melatonin in your body by 20 times. And considering your body produces extra melatonin while you’re pregnant, the bottom line is that we don’t yet know how safe that much melatonin is for you or your baby.
Not to mention that taking extra melatonin has been known to cause nightmares, which is really the last thing you need when you already have so much to deal with.
Conflicting Research Results
Along with the research showing the benefits of melatonin, there’s also some evidence that it might negatively affect fertility and the health of babies. For example, an animal study on rats showed that melatonin supplements reduced litter sizes and increased the birth weight and mortality of the baby rats.
Some people experience side effects from taking melatonin, including nausea, dizziness, headaches, and drowsiness — none of which are particularly pleasant under normal circumstances, never mind while you’re pregnant.
Because melatonin is a supplement rather than a drug, it’s regulated differently from medication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So if you’re wondering if you can take melatonin while pregnant, you should also be asking questions about a brand’s strength and purity.
Tests show that many over-the-counter brands contain either a lot less or a lot more melatonin than stated on the packaging, so it’s difficult to know exactly how much you’re getting. Some brands are also contaminated with impurities, which add further risk. So if you do decide to use melatonin, make sure you buy from a reputable brand.
So Is Melatonin Safe During Pregnancy?
Bottom line: So far, there’s a lack of research into the safety of melatonin for pregnant women. Essentially, we don’t yet have an answer to the question “can you take melatonin while pregnant?”
If you’re having trouble sleeping and are considering taking melatonin, be sure to get medical advice first. Consult your ob-gyn, or another healthcare provider or wellness provider to find out if it’s a good solution for you. If they agree that it is, check with them on how much to take — typically it’s not recommended to take more than 5 milligrams per night.
Still Sleepless? Alternatives to Melatonin
If you’ve moved on from the question “can you take melatonin while pregnant?” you may be wondering what your other options are. A good place to start is by improving your sleep habits — otherwise known as sleep hygiene.
Make Your Bedroom a Haven for Sleep
You’ll sleep best when the temperature is right (around 65°F is ideal) and it’s dark. To achieve this, you may need to invest in an air conditioner and light-blocking blinds or curtains. Also, keep your room neat and uncluttered so it’s a restful place, rather than constantly reminding you of all the things you need to do — like tidying up.
Turn Off Electronics Early
You’ve probably heard that blue light from screens interferes with sleep. That means turning off your cell phone, laptop, TV, and any other devices at least an hour before bedtime. Keep room lights low, so your body starts producing melatonin to prepare you for sleep.
Ease Yourself Into Sleep
Use that extra hour to follow a relaxing routine that tells your body it’s almost time for bed. For example, take a warm bath, journal about your day or your plans, listen to music, read a book (just not something that gets you thinking too much), chat with family, stretch, meditate, or do breathing exercises.
Get Into a Routine
Make sure you prioritize sleep over other activities — like watching TV or scrolling through social media — especially if you do tend to struggle with getting enough. Train your body to know when it’s time to sleep and time to wake up by going to bed and rising at the same time every day. If you need to take a nap — and who could blame you when you’re pregnant — keep it short and preferably before mid-afternoon, so it doesn’t interfere with getting a good night’s sleep.
Invest in Comfort
Start with a good mattress and high-quality bedding. A pregnancy pillow that supports your body can also do wonders for your sleep. If you don’t have a pregnancy pillow, you can create your own version with strategically placed ordinary pillows between your knees, under your belly, and behind your back.
Take Care of Your Health
Great health starts with a healthy, whole-food diet. Aim to get the full range of nutrients from protein, grains, fats, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Nutrients like magnesium, and vitamins B, D, and E are especially important for sleep. Just make sure to consult your doctor before taking any supplements while pregnant.
If you’re struggling to meet some of your nutrient needs through food, invest in a good multivitamin, like Llama Naturals Multivitamin Gummies — which are organic and plant-based — to top up those essential vitamins and minerals.
Try Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia
Cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia has been proven to be highly effective. It looks at what keeps you awake and helps you adjust your beliefs and habits around sleep. It also includes mindfulness and relaxation strategies — and it seems to work just as well online as it does in person.
Everyone’s different, so experiment with a variety of approaches to see what works best for you.
Can You Take Melatonin While Pregnant? Weigh the Benefits and Risks
Melatonin is a hormone that helps to manage sleep-wake cycles. While your body does produce it, many people take extra melatonin in the form of over-the-counter supplements to reduce jet lag and improve sleep.
The question is: Can you take melatonin while pregnant? While melatonin does appear to have several benefits for both mother and baby, there’s not yet enough research to prove that melatonin is safe during pregnancy. If you do decide it’s worth the risk, consult your physician first and make sure you buy from a reputable brand.
If not, consider exploring other ways to improve your sleep, starting with good sleep hygiene. Also, make sure you keep yourself in the best of health by getting good nutrition from whole foods and, if necessary, top up with high-quality supplements. The healthier you feel, the better you’ll sleep — and we can all do with more of that.
Llama Naturals is a plant-based nutrition brand that has created the World's First Whole Fruit Gummy Vitamins that are made with no added sugar and whole-food vitamins. They are USDA Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, free of common allergens, and are slow-cooked on low heat to retain rich phytonutrients & fruit flavor. It’s a win-win gummy vitamin that the whole family will love.