Taking Melatonin During Pregnancy for Insomnia: Is It Safe?

Taking melatonin during pregnancy for insomnia is not recommended until there are more scientific studies that support its safety.
Taking Melatonin During Pregnancy for Insomnia: Is It Safe?

Last update: 15 June, 2022

Are you pregnant and having trouble falling asleep? Surely you’ve thought about taking melatonin to combat insomnia, as this drug has gained great prominence in the treatment of sleep disorders. Especially when you want to intervene in a more “natural” way, without resorting to sedative drugs. But is it safe to take melatonin during pregnancy? In this article, we’ll tell you.

What is melatonin and what is its function?

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally secreted in our body in order to induce a good night’s rest. It’s specifically produced in the pineal gland, a brain structure, when low ambient light is perceived through the eyes. During pregnancy, melatonin is also produced by the ovaries and placenta.

As you can imagine, the main function of this chemical is to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle and keep the biological clock in order. That’s why, when it’s dark, we tend to rest and when it’s light, we remain active.

Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone, but its function isn’t limited to this. It’s also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, strengthens the immune system, and improves mood.

During pregnancy, this hormone is secreted in greater quantities, especially around week 24. Some studies affirm that this phenomenon contributes to the formation, growth, and development of the baby. It’s also believed to prevent some pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia-eclampsia, placental damage, and premature births.

A model of the brain with the hands of a watch on it, sitting on a backgroun that's half night and half day.
The circadian rhythm is established through the light stimuli that the brain receives through the eyes. This is why we tend to sleep at night and stay active during the day.

Is it safe to take melatonin in pregnancy to sleep better?

Certain changes in sleep patterns occur in pregnancy. It’s estimated that around 80% of pregnant women have problems sleeping, either insomnia, light sleep, or frequent awakenings for various reasons.

Among the most common reasons for gestational insomnia are hormonal changes, body aches and pains, frequent urination, and anxiety before the arrival of the baby.

To cope with this inconvenience, some pregnant women resort to taking natural or herbal supplements to help them sleep better. However, during pregnancy, one shouldn’t choose any substance lightly, as they could indirectly affect the baby’s well-being.

It should be noted that melatonin, in addition to being secreted naturally, is also produced synthetically and its drug product is marketed to combat sleep disturbances and problems with circadian rhythm.

But, is it safe to consume this product during pregnancy? No, its intake is not recommended at this stage, basically because there aren’t enough scientific studies that prove its safety.

What does science say about it?

According to a systematic review published in 2021, which analyzed 15 studies on the use of melatonin during pregnancy and lactation, experts suggest that it’s probably a safe drug, but that there’s insufficient evidence to date in favor of indicating it.

The Cochrane Collaboration concluded that it’s possible that melatonin, administered in specific cases during pregnancy, can help protect the fetal brain. Like the previous study, the researchers in charge recommend additional studies to confirm this.

So, although melatonin supplements are probably safe at this stage, they should be avoided until studies are done to confirm their safety.

The most important thing is to consult with a specialist before taking this supplement, or any other substance to help you fall asleep. Other measures to stimulate melatonin production naturally should also be tried first.

How can melatonin production be stimulated naturally?

Good sleep is essential for the well-being of mother and baby, as it prevents some pregnancy complications and favors good fetal development.

Therefore, it’s best to stimulate melatonin production through the implementation of sleep hygiene guidelines:

  • Try to always go to bed at the same time so that the body establishes a regular sleep-wake pattern and favors the natural conciliation of sleep.
  • Adapt the room for a better rest. Look for a dark room, with a cool environment, and without disturbing noises.
  • Take a bath with hot water before going to sleep. This helps to relax the body and favors the production of this hormone.
  • Avoid abundant dinners and processed foods. This, in addition to increasing the feeling of heaviness, favors the development of heartburn, a common discomfort during pregnancy.
  • Occasionally, take safe infusions that promote relaxation and sleep conciliation, such as chamomile, lime blossom, or lettuce leaf infusion. Of course, with your doctor’s authorization.
  • Consume foods rich in tryptophan and melatonin, such as dairy products, nuts, banana, avocado, tomato, oatmeal, and ginger.
  • Avoid visual stimulation. To do this, reduce the use of blue light (such as from cell phones, television, or computers) one to two hours before bedtime.
  • Limit the consumption of stimulating substances after mid-afternoon, such as coffee and chocolate, especially during the night.
A woman drinking tea during pregnancy.
Infusions should be avoided after the afternoon hours, as many of them contain brain-stimulating substances that could interfere with your rest.

About melatonin consumption in pregnancy, we can say…

As we saw, melatonin consumption during pregnancy to treat insomnia isn’t the safest option, due to the lack of scientific support. If problems falling asleep affect your daily life, you should consult your treating physician.

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