Is there anything more infuriating than hearing, “Sleep now before the baby gets here,” while you’re pregnant? With the physical and hormonal changes your body goes through, the impending arrival of the baby, and the never-ending to-do list that seems to grow longer as your body becomes more limited, it’s no wonder that falling asleep during pregnancy can be challenging.
A 2007 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, focusing on women and sleep, revealed that up to 1 in 5 individuals reported being told by a medical professional that they have a sleep disorder. Other studies have shown that these problems worsen during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.
Recently, there has been increasing interest in using melatonin supplementation for its beneficial effects on the body, particularly because it helps regulate sleep patterns naturally. Taking melatonin as a sleep aid has gained popularity as it feels more natural compared to other types of sleeping aids. However, you might wonder whether it is safe to take melatonin during pregnancy and if it could cause issues with fetal development.
Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. While your body naturally produces melatonin to assist with the sleep-wake cycle, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove the safety or effectiveness of melatonin supplements during pregnancy in aiding sleep.
What is melatonin?
When people talk about melatonin, they often refer to the synthetic supplement. However, melatonin is also a hormone that occurs naturally in the body and supports your circadian rhythm.
“Melatonin is a hormone that the pineal gland in our bodies normally secretes, and it plays a crucial role in regulating normal sleep/wake cycles,” explains Dr. Tali Bogler, a family physician and chair of family medicine obstetrics at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Essentially, melatonin can induce drowsiness and help you fall asleep successfully. The hormone is produced in response to darkness, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, and exposure to natural or artificial light (such as the blue light emitted by screens) can inhibit melatonin production.
Does melatonin work? Does it actually help you sleep?
That depends. While melatonin is an extremely popular over-the-counter supplement used as a sleep aid, there is limited evidence to support its effectiveness in treating insomnia. “Melatonin can help people fall asleep, so it’s useful for jet lag or shift work, but it’s not necessarily recommended for pregnancy-related insomnia,” says Bogler. While the drowsiness that some individuals experience after taking melatonin supplements can help them doze off, neither natural nor synthetic melatonin aids in maintaining sleep. Therefore, whether you’re dealing with chronic insomnia, pregnancy-related sleep issues, or struggling to regulate your sleep patterns due to a newborn, melatonin supplements are unlikely to have a significant impact on your sleep health.
Is it safe to take melatonin during pregnancy?
While your body’s natural production of melatonin brings many benefits to you and your baby, the safety and effectiveness of melatonin supplements during pregnancy are still uncertain.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, and its production is influenced by the day-night cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm, which is regulated by the amount of light your eyes receive throughout the day. Normally, melatonin levels rise in the evening, peak around 2:00 am, and then decrease in the morning. Various factors can affect the natural cycle of melatonin production, but typically, the duration of darkness at night plays a significant role.
The circadian rhythm not only affects your sleep-wake cycle but also regulates other important bodily functions such as reproductive hormone cycles, ovarian function, immune function, and protection against certain cancers.
During pregnancy, the developing placenta also produces melatonin. Research has shown that blood melatonin levels increase as pregnancy progresses, with the highest levels reached in the third trimester, returning to normal levels shortly after delivery.
Benefits of natural melatonin during pregnancy
Did you know that melatonin, the hormone naturally produced by humans, has more functions than just regulating our sleep-wake cycles? Studies on non-pregnant individuals have demonstrated that melatonin can:
– Influence reproductive hormone cycles and ovarian function
– Slow down the growth of certain cancers
– Improve immune function
– Act as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage
Talk about a multitasking hormone! Researchers are currently exploring whether taking melatonin supplements during pregnancy can provide protective benefits. While more research is needed, current studies  have suggested the following:
– Melatonin can cross the placenta and potentially affect your baby’s brain development, circadian rhythm, and sleep patterns.
– Melatonin may help maintain pregnancy by impacting the production of hormones like prolactin, oxytocin, and progesterone.
– Melatonin might help lower blood pressure and could potentially prevent preeclampsia.
– Melatonin may act as an antioxidant, promoting overall health for your baby.
– Melatonin may play a role in determining the onset of labor and delivery.
It is important to note that further scientific investigation is necessary to fully understand the effects and safety of melatonin supplementation during pregnancy. It is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider before considering melatonin or any other supplements during pregnancy.
Side effects and risks of melatonin supplements during pregnancy
Melatonin is classified as a dietary supplement and is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety or effectiveness. However, there are known side effects associated with taking melatonin supplements, especially at higher doses and with extended-release pills. These side effects may include:
– Daytime sleepiness
– Upset stomach
Individuals with certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, organ transplant, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis should avoid using melatonin due to potential toxicity.
Melatonin does not have an FDA pregnancy category that identifies risks to the baby. The Infant Risk Center , an international center that assesses the risk of exposure to various drugs during pregnancy and breastfeeding, states that melatonin supplements can cross the placenta and pass into human breast milk. However, there are insufficient studies to determine the safety of melatonin supplements for the baby.
Can melatonin cause a false positive pregnancy test?
Pregnancy tests rely on detecting the presence of a specific hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) in the blood and urine of pregnant individuals. These tests are generally accurate in identifying pregnancy as early as the first missed period.
Although melatonin can stimulate the secretion of certain pregnancy hormones like progesterone, there is no scientific evidence suggesting that melatonin affects the production of HCG or causes a false positive pregnancy test.
Can you take melatonin while breastfeeding?
Similar to the discussion about melatonin and pregnancy, the use of melatonin while breastfeeding is not well understood due to limited human data. “Low doses of melatonin are probably okay,” says Bogler, emphasizing the lack of research specifically conducted on humans.
Studies have shown that melatonin can pass through breast milk, but its adverse effects are not known. Bogler advises taking the recommended lower doses of melatonin while breastfeeding.
It is important to consult with your healthcare provider before taking melatonin or any other supplements during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, as they can provide personalized guidance based on your individual circumstances.
Safe alternatives to melatonin during pregnancy
While melatonin may appear to be a natural option for improving sleep, research studies and medical guidelines do not support its use as a sleep aid, even outside of pregnancy. Organizations such as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health  and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine  do not recommend melatonin for chronic insomnia due to a lack of evidence supporting its effectiveness.
Instead of relying on melatonin, it is advisable to discuss your sleep difficulties with your obstetric provider and address any underlying conditions. There could be other factors contributing to your sleep issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome. Insomnia has multiple causes and is more common in women than in men, as reported by the National Institutes of Health. It can be particularly challenging during pregnancy and postpartum due to hormonal and physical changes in the body.
While it may be frustrating to hear this when you are already dealing with sleep deprivation and limited options for relief during pregnancy, there are alternative approaches to consider for achieving better sleep. In addition to the sleep tips mentioned below, discussing safe and effective medical therapy for insomnia during pregnancy with your obstetrician is an option worth exploring.
Medicated sleep aids
Certain over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids, such as doxylamine, doxepin, and zolpidem, have strong clinical evidence supporting their effectiveness in promoting sleep while being safe for both you and your baby. However, it is essential to consult with your obstetrician before taking any sleep aid or medication and discuss all available options.
Evaluate your sleep environment. Noisy and brightly lit surroundings can make it difficult to fall asleep, especially if your sleep schedule differs from others in your household.
If you live with others, consider working out a plan to ensure you can get more rest. Find a quiet, dark, and comfortable room without distractions like clattering dishes, loud TVs, or constant lawnmower noise. We understand that achieving this can be challenging, especially with young children around, but any support you can seek to create uninterrupted quiet time for rest can be beneficial.
White noise and blackout curtains
You can create a sleep-friendly environment by using white noise and blackout curtains. These can help block out external sounds and light, aiding in better sleep. Additionally, this preparation can also benefit the baby’s room, allowing you to tick off a couple of items from your to-do list.
Mental and spiritual well-being
Do not overlook your mental and spiritual well-being. Sometimes, difficulty sleeping is linked to deeper issues such as anxiety and depression. It is normal to feel some level of anxiety about the significant life changes ahead, but if you are feeling down, it is important to speak with your obstetric provider and determine if further evaluation and treatment are necessary. Prioritizing your mental health is crucial as you prepare for your baby’s arrival.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)
This is a method of treating insomnia that targets underlying physical, environmental, emotional, and behavioral factors without relying on sleep medications or supplements. CBT-I during pregnancy has also been shown to improve symptoms of postpartum depression and reduce the occurrence of major depression in some cases.
7 Sleep Tips for Better Sleep During Pregnancy
If you’re struggling with sleep during pregnancy, here are some lifestyle changes and sleep hygiene practices to consider before resorting to sleep aids:
– Establish a consistent sleep schedule: Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time to train your body’s internal clock and promote better sleep quality.
– Create a comfortable sleep environment: Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Use a supportive mattress and pillows that suit your needs.
– Unwind without screens before bed: Avoid electronic devices, such as phones, tablets, and TVs, for at least an hour before sleep. Engage in relaxing activities like reading a book, listening to calming music, or practicing relaxation techniques.
– Engage in regular physical activity: Incorporate light to moderate exercise into your daily routine, such as walking or prenatal yoga. Regular movement can improve sleep patterns and overall well-being.
– Explore yoga and its benefits: Yoga can be a helpful practice during pregnancy, offering physical postures, meditation, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises. Consult a certified prenatal yoga instructor for guidance.
– Limit caffeine intake: Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages or foods within eight hours of your intended bedtime. Caffeine can interfere with sleep and contribute to restlessness.
– Avoid alcohol and nicotine: Refrain from drinking alcohol or using nicotine products, as they can disrupt sleep patterns and have negative effects on your health and the baby’s development.
– Melatonin is a hormone that provides various benefits to your body throughout your life, including during pregnancy. It is produced naturally by the body and may support both your pregnancy and your baby’s health.
– While naturally produced melatonin is considered safe during pregnancy, taking melatonin supplements can increase the levels in your body, and the potential effects on pregnancy are not fully understood.
– Schedule an appointment with your obstetrician to discuss your sleep concerns. They can evaluate your symptoms, identify any underlying medical issues, and, if necessary, refer you to a sleep specialist for further evaluation.
– Assess your home environment, diet, and other factors that may contribute to sleep disturbances. Adopting good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a comfortable sleep environment and implementing a consistent routine, can improve your sleep quality.
– Pay attention to symptoms of anxiety or depression and seek help from your obstetrician or mental health provider if needed.
– Avoid alcohol consumption, as it is not only detrimental to your baby’s health but can also disrupt your sleep patterns.
– If you are considering a sleep aid, consult with your obstetric provider first. They can recommend safe and effective therapies tailored to your specific needs and ensure the well-being of both you and your baby.
Melatonin during pregnancy FAQ
Q: Is it safe to take melatonin when pregnant?
The safety of taking melatonin supplements during pregnancy is not fully known. While naturally produced melatonin in the body is considered safe, the effects of additional melatonin from supplements on pregnancy have not been extensively studied. It is recommended to consult with your obstetrician before taking melatonin or any other sleep aids during pregnancy.
Q: Is 10mg of melatonin too much while pregnant?
The optimal dosage of melatonin for pregnant individuals has not been established. It is important to note that melatonin supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and effectiveness. It is generally advised to start with the lowest effective dose and discuss the appropriate dosage with your healthcare provider.
Q: What is safe to take for sleep while pregnant?
When it comes to sleep aids during pregnancy, it is recommended to explore non-medication options and make lifestyle changes to improve sleep quality. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, practicing relaxation techniques, engaging in light exercise, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine are some strategies that can promote better sleep during pregnancy. However, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice.
Q: Is melatonin safe in pregnancy pubmed?
The safety of melatonin supplements in pregnancy is a subject of ongoing research, and findings may vary. While there is some research on the topic, it is important to note that scientific studies can have different conclusions and limitations. It is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider and rely on their expertise to make informed decisions regarding the use of melatonin or any other supplements during pregnancy.
Q: Does melatonin pass through breast milk?
Yes, whether naturally produced or taken as a supplement, melatonin can pass through breast milk. Artificial changes in melatonin concentrations in breast milk could potentially disrupt your baby’s sleep patterns. Although there is limited research on the safety of taking melatonin supplements while breastfeeding, it is generally believed that small amounts taken for a short duration are unlikely to harm your baby. However, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider before using melatonin supplements while breastfeeding.
Q: Can you take 5mg of melatonin when pregnant?
The safety of taking melatonin as a dietary supplement during pregnancy is uncertain. Researchers have not determined whether it is safe to take melatonin during pregnancy, so it is generally recommended to avoid it. It is important to discuss any medications or dietary supplements, including melatonin, with your healthcare provider before using them during pregnancy.
Q: Can you take melatonin while pregnant in the first trimester?
It is generally advisable to avoid taking any medications or dietary supplements during the first trimester of pregnancy, unless they are medically indicated or necessary. The first trimester is a critical period when your baby’s organ systems are forming. While melatonin is a natural hormone that supports pregnancy, the safety of taking additional melatonin supplements during the first trimester is unknown. It is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider before using melatonin or any other supplements during this stage of pregnancy.
Q: Are melatonin gummies safe for pregnancy?
Apart from the unknown safety of melatonin itself during pregnancy, any type of gummy chews, including melatonin gummies, can increase the risk of cavities by getting stuck in the crevices of your teeth. To maintain good oral health, it is advisable to avoid chewing gummies while pregnant.
Q: Is melatonin Epsom salt safe for pregnancy?
Epsom salt is typically used in bathwater to help relieve sore muscles. However, during pregnancy, it is recommended to avoid sitting in bathwater that is hotter than your normal body temperature (97 – 98°F or 36°C), particularly during the first trimester. The safety of melatonin Epsom salt products specifically for pregnancy is unknown, and it is generally best to avoid using such products to ensure the well-being of your pregnancy.
Q: How Much Melatonin is Safe During Pregnancy?
The appropriate dosage of melatonin during pregnancy should be determined in consultation with your doctor. Melatonin doses can range from 1 to 10 milligrams, but it is generally advised to start with smaller doses. It is important to note that pregnant individuals naturally have higher levels of melatonin, and your healthcare provider can help determine the safest and most suitable dosage for you to avoid consuming excessive amounts.