Melatonin is considered more than a sleep aid for many, but can you take melatonin during pregnancy? How much melatonin is safe during pregnancy? These are extremely important questions to ask for a melatonin user as soon they find out they will be eating for two. Because whether you like it or not, melatonin and pregnancy do not mix well. If you want to learn more about using melatonin while pregnant, scroll down and you will find the answers you are looking for!
How Much Melatonin Is Too Much Melatonin During Pregnancy?
Among all the troubles pregnancy brings, sleep troubles are the worst. Not that every pregnant woman has it, but the majority has it to some degree. Tossing and turning with back pain or leg pain while your brain is running anxious thoughts on repeat, anything to help sleep disruption is heaven-sent. Restlessness and sleep disruption could be due to anything from esophageal reflux to increased urination.
No wonder why people with severe sleep troubles reach for the natural sleep supplement known as melatonin. But did you know that melatonin has not yet been proved to be safe to use during pregnancy? Yes, unfortunately, you might have to keep it away, even though melatonin is “natural”. Why? Let’s get into the details of melatonin while pregnant.
What Is Melatonin?
As you might already know, melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your body that helps regulate and normalize the sleep-wake cycle. It is produced by the pineal gland within your brain and hence regulates your circadian rhythm to relax to slumber(1). When it’s dark, our bodies produce more melatonin, which helps us to feel sleepy.
This is why melatonin is available to buy as a dietary supplement to help you sleep better. While it may be safe to use and not have adverse side effects for any adult, it may not be safe during pregnancy. To understand the reason clearly, you need to know a bit more about melatonin production while pregnant.
Melatonin While Pregnant
Your brain naturally produces melatonin at normal levels. But in pregnant women, their brains produce additional melatonin. Both the placenta and the ovaries produce melatonin in high levels at 24 weeks and even higher at 32 weeks(2).
Since babies don’t produce their own melatonin until they are 9-12 weeks old, they depend on their mothers while in utero, which is why melatonin is found in amniotic fluid. Your body uses this melatonin while pregnant throughout. In fact, the hormone helps induce labor and delivery by working with oxytocin.
Is It Safe to Take Melatonin During Pregnancy?
Now you know the importance of melatonin. But the problem with melatonin during pregnancy is when taken as supplements to relieve periodic insomnia. As retail melatonin is a supplement and not a drug, it is not regulated nor monitored by the FDA.
This means there is no standard dosage and the manufacturers can make claims without substantiation on the packaging. They are made in a lab with synthetic ingredients that mimic the natural hormone and also doses range widely. Some even contain ingredients that are not listed on the label. This is why melatonin is not recommended during pregnancy.
More importantly, there has been too little research on using melatonin while pregnant. The researches are either at the early testing stages or done on animals, not humans, and hence not concrete or adequate enough to come to a solid conclusion. Although there is no clear evidence of harm, we can’t be sure it’s not totally harmless either. Because no one knows for sure how pregnant women would respond to additional melatonin. In conclusion, further research is required to determine whether taking melatonin during pregnancy is safe or not.
However, some doctors do recommend melatonin for those pregnant women with persistent sleep disruption. That may be because it’s only recommended for short-term use since short-term use is considered relatively safe. But keep in mind that it is always better to not take any risk during pregnancy. Just because it may not have severe side effects does not mean it’s completely safe to use. So, don’t use it at all. No matter how manufacturers claim it as natural because “natural” does not always mean safe, especially in pregnancy.
Melatonin While Pregnant: Safe Dosage
Many ask if 5mg of melatonin is safe while pregnant or not. For pregnant women, it is safest to start with the lowest dose. If at all you are taking it, the recommended safe dosage is between 1 mg and 3 mg. This dosage rises melatonin levels 20 times your normal levels. So, you have to stop using melatonin as soon as the sleep troubles resolve.
For adults, the recommended dose is between 0.2 and 5.0 milligrams to be taken at the same time every day.
Of course, it cannot be taken on your own. You can only take it after consulting with your doctor or under the close guidance of a doctor. You also need to follow safety precautions such as purchasing from a trusted brand and monitoring side effects.
There may be severe complications when you take melatonin during pregnancy if you are suffering from diabetes, low or high blood pressure, epilepsy, or other such ailments. In short, keep melatonin supplements as last resort after trying non-pharmacological strategies to aid, say lifestyle changes.
Potential Benefits of Melatonin Supplements
Are there benefits to taking melatonin while pregnant? Courtesy of the ongoing research on potential benefits of melatonin supplements during pregnancy, some believe them to be beneficial to the developing fetus.
According to the research done on animals, the positive correlations between melatonin and pregnancy are the following:
- Help decrease the risk of preeclampsia(3)
- Protect against oxidative stress —damage to cells
- Protect against neurobehavioral disorders
- Aid in healthy brain development
- Help decrease the risk of intrauterine growth restriction
- Increase fertility
- Improve outcomes of artificial reproductive technologies, such as Vitro fertilization
- Decrease the risk of preterm birth
- Improve the functioning of the placenta
- Improve sleep
- Reduce pregnancy complications
These are the potential benefits some researchers claim. But keep in mind that all of these are mere possibilities based on studies done on animals. Of course, human studies are absolutely necessary. Though it’s safe for short-term use, its long-term effects have not been studied yet.
Now, let’s talk about the side effects of using supplemental melatonin during pregnancy.
Side Effects of Taking Supplemental Melatonin While Pregnant
Since some doctors recommend melatonin, it’s quite important to consider the potential side effects more than the potential benefits. Besides the obvious elephant in the room, i.e. unnecessarily raising the levels of melatonin, there are other issues to keep in mind.
They include the following:
- Allergic reactions
- Interactions with your medications (prescription medicines and supplements)
- Drowsiness, nausea, and fatigue
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Mood swings
- Memory loss and delusions
- Hormonal changes and their symptoms, such as hot flashes, acne, changes in eyesight
- Unspecified ingredients can cause severe additional effects
- Change in sugar levels and blood pressure
If you take melatonin before realizing you are pregnant, there is no reason to panic. All you need to do is discontinue the usage and clear its use through your doctor. After scanning your individual medical history as well as the health status of your pregnancy, your doctor can guide you to the usage of melatonin, or any such highly effective drugs for that matter.
All of the possible side effects of taking melatonin while pregnant suggest you opt for other alternatives to treat insomnia during pregnancy. What are the available alternatives?
Alternatives To Treat Sleep Troubles During Pregnancy
There are several different alternatives and sleeping tips that are effective in treating sleep disruption.
Before going for melatonin, try the following:
- Cut off all electronic screens an hour before you go to bed
- Declutter your room before you jump on your bed
- During the second and third trimesters, use a pregnancy pillow to improve sleep quality while providing support
- Stick to a regular bedtime
- Have a relaxing routine before bedtimes, such as yoga, meditation, reading, or a warm bath
- Sleep in a dark, cool room with comfortable temperature and without distracting screens
- Eat the right food for pregnancy
- Avoid eating heavy meals
- Exercise during the day to lower stress levels
- Keep noisy alarm clocks away
- Do a full body massage
- Use safe sleep aids sparingly —commonly prescribed sleeping medications include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Doxylamine (Unisom), Tylenol PM, or Nytol
These are some helpful ways to improve the sleeping environment and catch some quality sleep. Not using any medication without consulting with a healthcare provider goes without saying. As every pregnancy is different, you have to consult with your doctor to take melatonin while pregnant. This way they can be aware of any potential complications.
Sleep plays an instrumental role in pregnancy. But 3 in 4 percent of pregnant women have trouble sleeping. As there are several potential links between the quantity of sleep and birth complications, every pregnant woman must take care of the sleeping troubles and promote good sleeping. I hope this article helped you determine if using melatonin during pregnancy is a safe option for you or not.