Melatonin supplements in pregnancy: can they be used?

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Catherine Le Nevez
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Sleeping peacefully during pregnancy can be difficult for many women. Indeed, according to a recent study, between 46% and 78% of pregnant women have insomnia problems, a percentage that reaches almost 80% if we consider only women in the third trimester of pregnancy.

This happens because, in the nine months, the expectant mother goes through a whole series of physical, psychological and metabolic difficulties affecting rest. Not to mention, then, the hormonal imbalances that are created and that can cause aalteration of melatonin secretion: the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

In normal situations, to regulate the normal sleep-wake cycle, you can take supplements based on melatonin, but we know well that in pregnancy you have to pay attention to everything that could reach the fetus. So, is melatonin safe for mothers-to-be and their little ones? Let's see it together.

In this article

  • what is melatonin
  • melatonin supplements
  • the rules to rest better

Melatonin: what it is and what it is used for

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland fundamental for neurodevelopment and for the regulation of the circadian rhythm. This substance is produced in greater quantities in dark conditions precisely because it regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

But it doesn't stop there. In fact, the melatonin produced by our body is a very precious hormone during pregnancy for several reasons:

  • regulates the circadian rhythm of the fetus;
  • plays an important role in the development of the placenta;
  • it is an antioxidant;
  • promotes the development of the endocrine and nervous system;
  • limits the chances of preterm delivery.

The melatonin that we find on the market in the form of supplements, on the other hand, is a synthetic hormone, that is, obtained in the laboratory. When taken before bedtime, melatonin helps young and old alike fall asleep in less time and to sleep better all night, but during pregnancy its use is much debated.

Read also: Insomnia in pregnancy, 9 tips to fight it

Melatonin supplements in pregnancy: yes or no?

The use of supplements based on melatonin during pregnancy is currently not recommended, mainly because studies on the hormone synthesized for commercial purposes are not yet complete. There are therefore no sufficient scientific evidence to prove that these supplements are completely safe during pregnancy.

Our knowledge of the effects of supplemented melatonin during gestation is limited and most of the data comes from animal studies. For example, an animal study found that additional melatonin during pregnancy negatively affects maternal weight, birth weight, and infant mortality.

Other animal research shows that taking melatonin during the nine months, in addition to being associated with a decrease in birth weight, could also lead to a longer gestation.

As we said, these are animal studies, but in pregnancy it is better to always be very careful.

Side effects and contraindications

As a hormone, then, melatonin can have some side effects, especially if taken in quantities higher than those expected. For example, an excessive dose of melatonin is associated with symptoms such as:

  • lowering of body temperature;
  • changes in blood pressure;
  • headache;
  • dizziness;
  • nausea;
  • drowsiness and lightheadedness during the day.

Melatonin can also affect hormone production in the woman's organism and condition it development of the fetus. For this reason it is recommended not to take melatonin supplements without first consulting your doctor.

Beware even if you hire others drugs because melatonin can interact with some types of drugs such as anticoagulants and glycemic regulators.

Other herbal remedies for insomnia

Many expectant mothers may think they can replace melatonin with others natural remedies to sleep better, but be careful: in pregnancy it is always better to approach the "natural" with the same caution with which one would approach a drug. Natural does not necessarily mean safe or harmless. Therefore, it will be necessary to pay attention to all the drops and herbal preparations, that is, based on medicinal herbs, especially if you have not asked for a medical opinion first.

Better to focus instead on some relaxing herbal tea or, better still, on sleep hygiene.


Read also: Insomnia in pregnancy, causes and remedies

Better to focus on sleep hygiene

To rest well, the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research has compiled a list of tips that may be useful to expectant mothers:

  • create a relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom: a dark, quiet environment with a comfortable temperature;
  • go to bed and get up at the same time every day;
  • remove electronic devices from the chamber;
  • keeping active, physical activity helps to fall asleep more easily;
  • eat small and frequent meals;
  • practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation.
Read also: How many hours of sleep you need to sleep from 0 to 100 years

In addition to these tips, the following may also be helpful:

  • avoid caffeine, especially around the time to go home;
  • take a hot shower or read a book before going to sleep;
  • use a special pregnancy pillow.

If even putting these little rules into practice does not improve the situation, then it is important talk to your doctor to find a suitable solution.

Other sources used for the article: Sleep Foundation information material; Mayo Foundation information material; article "Clinical Update 2022: Melatonin and Pregnancy", Harvard Medical School.

  • sleep in pregnancy
  • sleep
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