Melatonin1 is a hormone that helps promote sleep and plays an important role in the body’s sleep-wake cycle. This hormone is also available as a supplement, and some people take these supplements to sleep better. During pregnancy, it is often difficult to sleep because of the physical and emotional changes occurring to your body.
If you’re wondering if it’s safe to take melatonin while pregnant, keep reading. We’ll cover the answer to this, along with the potential benefits of melatonin during pregnancy, the potential side effects of taking this supplement, and other ways to get a good sleep while pregnant.
Is it Safe to Take Melatonin While Pregnant?
If you are pregnant and want to take melatonin supplements, you should be able to safely do so, though we advise first getting approval from your doctor before taking any. Research2 suggests that these supplements won’t harm the pregnant person or the baby. Currently, there isn’t sufficient research that reveals how many milligrams of melatonin is safe for pregnant people to consume.
4 Benefits of Taking Melatonin While Pregnant
1. Melatonin Helps Combat Sleep Disorders
Pregnant people may take melatonin for varying reasons, one of which is that they are at a higher risk for sleep disorders3 and may need the help of a melatonin supplement to get adequate rest. Some of these sleep disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, and restless legs syndrome.
Melatonin is often used as a supplement to improve sleep because it’s a hormone that fosters tiredness1. The body naturally produces more melatonin at night, but as we age, the amount of melatonin decreases4. Adding extra melatonin through supplements may help encourage tiredness in order to get enough rest.
Read more: our Complete Guide to Sleeping While Pregnant
2. Melatonin Could Improve Fertility and Fetal Development
Studies suggest that melatonin levels could improve fertility and fetal development5, along with reducing the risk of problems associated with pregnancy. If you’re pregnant and your body isn’t producing enough melatonin, you may choose to take a melatonin supplement. That said, we advise that you always check with your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you are pregnant.
3. Melatonin Helps Train a Baby’s Circadian Rhythm
According to scientific experts, the embryo and fetus are dependent on melatonin provided by the mother. According to the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health6, evidence suggests melatonin is an important hormone that helps train the baby’s circadian rhythms. Some pregnant people may have lower melatonin levels because of their age, but taking melatonin supplements could help prepare their baby’s body clock.
4. Melatonin May Foster a Healthier Pregnancy
Melatonin may encourage a healthier pregnancy, and some animal studies show that high levels of melatonin lowers oxidative stress and the risk of pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, and intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR)6. So, if you take melatonin supplements during pregnancy, you may be less prone to experiencing some of these negative results of pregnancy.
What are the Potential Side Effects of Taking Melatonin While Pregnant?
The potential side effects of taking melatonin supplements during pregnancy are not fully known. Research on the topic is limited, so it’s not clear if there are negative side effects.
Some doctors may recommend melatonin for pregnant people or those trying to become pregnant, on a case-by-case basis. We urge you to consult your primary care physician to determine if it’s safe for you to take melatonin supplements during your pregnancy.
Alternatives to Taking Melatonin While Pregnant
If you don’t feel comfortable taking melatonin supplements while pregnant, or your doctor advises against it, there are other ways to prepare your body for sleep and promote a good night’s rest.
- Exercise – Regular exercise helps enhance sleep7. If you have difficulty falling asleep, we suggest that you exercise in the morning or afternoon because working out too late in the day could give you more energy before bed. Confirm with your doctor to learn which exercises are safe to do during your pregnancy.
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule – Having a consistent sleep schedule is valuable because it keeps the body’s sleep-wake cycle8 on track. Waking up and going to bed at the same time each day will train your body to feel tired when it’s time for bed.8 You’ll also have a better chance of getting enough hours of sleep by maintaining a schedule that allows for it.
- Create a calm, dark, and quiet sleep environment – The ideal sleep space9 is cool, dark, and quiet. You may want to use blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and a fan to meet these standards. Another aspect that helps create a good sleep environment is a comfortable mattress. If your bed isn’t comfortable, this could hinder your rest, so find one that delivers optimal comfort and support. Explore our picks for the best mattresses for pregnancy.
- Don’t eat too late – Eating a large meal late at night could trigger uncomfortable digestive issues10 that keep you up at night. The Cleveland Clinic recommends that you stop eating three hours before going to sleep.10 If you feel hungry, rather than indulging in a heavy meal, opt for a light snack that will curb your hunger but not leave you too full.
- Avoid using electronics before bed – Avoid looking at your screen devices for at least an hour before you go to sleep. Devices like cell phones, televisions, tablets, and computers emit a blue light that suppresses melatonin production11, leaving you more alert. Instead of using devices with blue light, try reading a book or meditating before bed.
Check out our 48 Sleep Life Hacks – How to Get the Best Sleep Every Night!
When to Consult Your Doctor
Before taking melatonin supplements during your pregnancy, consult your doctor. Your physician will decide whether it’s appropriate or safe for you to take melatonin. They’ll also let you know how many milligrams you should consume and when you should take the supplement.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much melatonin is safe during pregnancy?
The amount of melatonin that’s safe during pregnancy should be determined by your doctor. There is not sufficient research available regarding how many milligrams of melatonin pregnant people should take.
Can you take melatonin in the first trimester?
There is no research that suggests melatonin can only be taken during the later stages of pregnancy. However, we again suggest you consult your doctor before taking melatonin supplements during pregnancy.
Can you take melatonin while breastfeeding?
Yes, you can take melatonin supplements while breastfeeding, though experts suggest that you only take a low dose12. With a higher dose, there is a chance that your baby will become drowsy after breastfeeding.12
However, confirming with your specific doctor beforehand is still a good idea here.
What happens to the body’s melatonin levels during pregnancy?
When a person is pregnant, their body’s natural melatonin levels increase13 and continue increasing as they progress into the second and third trimesters. A 2020 study found that melatonin levels in pregnant women, even in the first trimester, were significantly higher than the levels of non-pregnant women.13 Since melatonin levels increase during pregnancy naturally, you may find that there isn’t even a need to take a melatonin supplement.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
- “Melatonin: What You Need To Know”. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Last modified July 2022.
- Vina, Tya., Brown, Gregory M., Frey, Benicio N. “Melatonin use during pregnancy and lactation: A scoping review of human studies”. National Library of Medicine. 2022.
- Silvestri, Rosalia., Aricò, Irene. “Sleep disorders in pregnancy”. Sleep Science. 2019.
- Karasek, M. “Melatonin, human aging, and age-related diseases”. National Library of Medicine. 2004.
- Voiculescu, SE., et al. “Role of melatonin in embryo fetal development”. Journal of Medicine and Life. 2014.
- “Clinical Update 2020: Melatonin and Pregnancy”. Mass General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health. 2020.
- “Exercising for Better Sleep”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed August 2, 2024.
- “Circadian Rhythms”. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Webpage accessed August 2, 2024.
- “Creating a Good Sleep Environment”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified April 1, 2020.
- “Is Eating Before Bed Bad for You?”. Cleveland Clinic. 2022.
- West, Kathleen E., et al. “Blue light from light-emitting diodes elicits a dose-dependent suppression of melatonin in humans”. National Library of Medicine. 2011.
- “Pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility while taking melatonin”. National Health Service. Last modified February 13, 2024.
- Ejaz, Haroon., et al. “Maternal Serum Melatonin Increases During Pregnancy and Falls Immediately After Delivery Implicating the Placenta as a Major Source of Melatonin”. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2021.