Can I Take Melatonin While Pregnant?
Can I Take Melatonin While Pregnant?
October 22, 2021

Can I Take Melatonin While Pregnant?

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Can I Take Melatonin While Pregnant?

Having insomnia is challenging enough on its own, but having insomnia while pregnant is a whole new ballgame. Between tossing and turning to find a comfortable sleeping position with your ever-growing belly and constantly getting woken up by heartburn or kicks to your abdomen by an active fetus, we don’t blame you for trying to find a solution to get those ultra-important ZZZs.

Melatonin supplements are a common remedy for sleeplessness, but don’t run to the drugstore just yet. Read on to learn more about the safety of supplemental melatonin during pregnancy as well as other options that can help you get the sleep you (desperately) need.

Are Melatonin Supplements Safe During Pregnancy?

The short answer: we don’t know. The safety of any medication taken during pregnancy is determined by thorough research, and the research of melatonin supplements is still ongoing, so scientists and doctors don’t have enough information yet about the effects it can have on a developing fetus.

You probably know that your brain produces melatonin naturally to regulate your body’s ability to sleep and be awake, but if it doesn’t produce enough, a melatonin supplement is sometimes appropriate to get your brain back to the levels it needs.

So how exactly does a melatonin supplement affect your natural melatonin levels? “When taken as a supplement,” says Dr. Kristin Lasseter, reproductive psychiatrist at Clinic of Austin and co-host of the WomenWell online community, “this changes the normal amount naturally found in the body to levels up to twenty times higher. We don’t know what unnaturally high amounts of this hormone do to a baby or to a pregnancy though.”

Researchers do know that developing fetuses’ brains actually take in some of your natural melatonin as it crosses the placenta, Dr. Lasseter explains, and “there are certain times during the pregnancy when melatonin levels are naturally higher, such as the third trimester, indicating that it likely plays a very important role in the pregnancy and baby’s development.”

Melatonin and Breastfeeding

Just like how your naturally produced melatonin crosses the placenta to your baby, it also passes through breast milk, which is good news if you’re nursing or planning to nurse, since “[it] is believed to help develop and regulate the infant’s sleep-wake cycle,” Dr. Lasseter says. However, just like with pregnancy, there isn’t enough information on whether taking a melatonin supplement while breastfeeding is safe for baby.

Insomnia Treatments That Are Safe for Pregnancy

“It should be noted that treating insomnia, or sleep disruptions, in pregnancy is really important since insomnia during the pregnancy comes with its own set of risks, including postpartum depression and anxiety,” Dr. Lasseter says. And since melatonin supplements and other sleep aids aren’t proven safe for pregnancy, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the other available treatment options:

  • Safest and most effective: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, or CBT-I (either with a therapist or with a self-guided online program)
  • Most widely-studied medication: Doxylamine (found over-the-counter and is also used to treat nausea)
  • Alternative wellness options: Yoga, mindfulness meditation, acupuncture

Note: As with any treatment during pregnancy, talk to your provider/ob-gyn about which options are best for you in your unique pregnancy.

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