More research must be done to decide if it’s safe to take melatonin supplements during pregnancy. There are already healthy alternatives to treat insomnia while pregnant.

It’s extremely common to experience insomnia while pregnant. A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found insomnia affects a staggering 78% of pregnant women. Insomnia essentially means that someone isn’t able to sleep, or experiences low-quality sleep. Factors contributing to insomnia during pregnancy can include discomfort because of the size of your abdomen, back pain, the need to urinate frequently, anxiety, hormonal changes, heartburn or having strange or vivid dreams.

There are limited medications pregnant women can take because of the possible effects on their health and the health of the fetus. One sleep aid that’s often touted as being a natural way to help insomnia is melatonin. However, can you take melatonin while pregnant?

Melatonin’s Effects on Pregnancy

In terms of taking melatonin while pregnant, there’s not a lot of concrete evidence that proves it’s safe or unsafe in human pregnancies. There is also no standard dosage for melatonin, which can create its own risks. There is one animal study on melatonin during pregnancy showing that it could have a negative effect on maternal weight.

Melatonin Pregnancy Studies

However, there have been some animal studies and tests showing positive effects of taking melatonin during pregnancy. Some of the potentially positive effects of melatonin on pregnant women include a lower risk of intrauterine growth retardation, protection against oxidative stress, and protection against neurosensory disabilities. These positive effects were shown to help certain pregnancies, and some were able to speak to melatonin’s safety as a supplement in healthy pregnancies. More studies using human subjects are required before reaching a definitive answer.

Alternatives for Treating Insomnia While Pregnant

Before taking melatonin or any sleep aid, a pregnant woman should speak with her healthcare provider. She may also want to try other alternatives for treating insomnia first since the safety of melatonin during pregnancy isn’t defined based on current research.

Recommendations for treating insomnia naturally include: 

  • Cutting off all electronic screens an hour before trying to go to sleep
  • Keeping a comfortable, clutter-free bedroom
  • Limiting the time spent in the bedroom to sleeping and sexual activities (if active)
  • Using a pregnancy pillow can provide support and improve sleep quality, particularly in the second and third trimesters
  • Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day
  • Having a relaxing routine before bedtime, like a warm bath, meditation, or relaxing yoga.

For pregnant women who struggle with insomnia, it can be difficult to cope with. Speaking with a healthcare provider can be a good first step to find solutions that will improve sleep time and quality during pregnancy.

Why Is Sleep Important In Pregnancy?

While insomnia is a common issue among pregnant women, it can cause complications in some cases. A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that there were links between the quantity of sleep and the quality of sleep that pregnant women experience and potential birth complications. These complications can include an increased risk of low birth weight and preterm birth.

Researchers believe there is a potential link between complications at birth and the sleep patterns of pregnant women because of changes in the functionality of the immune system. These changes might be related to low-quality sleep or too little sleep, according to researchers. Along with birth complications, a disruption in sleep patterns can also cause symptoms of depression in pregnant women. Depression during pregnancy can have its own set of potential effects and lead to an increased risk of complications like preterm birth.

Read Previous

National Sleep Foundation. “Pregnancy and Sleep.” Women and Sleep, 1998. Accessed June 25, 2020.

Okun, Michele; et al. “Sleep Disturbances Increase interleukin-[…]nancy Complications.” Reproductive Sciences, September 2007. Accessed June 25, 2020.

Jahnke, G; et al. “Maternal and developmental toxicity eval[…]Sprague-Dawley rats.” Toxicological Sciences, August 1, 1999. Accessed June 25, 2020.

Gitto, Eloisa; et al. “Oxidative stress of the newborn in the pre‐ and postnatal period and the clinical utility of melatonin.” Journal of Pineal Research, January 29, 2009. Accessed June 25, 2020.

Lemley, Caleb; et al. “Melatonin supplementation alters uteroplacental hemodynamics and fetal development in an ovine model of intrauterine growth restriction.” American Journal of Physiology, February 15, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2020.

Wilkinson, Dominic; et al. “Melatonin for women in pregnancy for neu[…]ection of the fetus.” Cochrane Systematic Review, March 29, 2016. Accessed June 25, 2020.

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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.