What You Need to Know About Taking Melatonin While Pregnant
Is It Safe to Take Melatonin While Pregnant?
It’s extremely common to experience insomnia while pregnant. There is research showing insomnia affects a staggering 78 percent of pregnant women. Insomnia essentially means that someone isn’t able to sleep, or experiences low-quality sleep. During pregnancy, this can be especially problematic for a number of reasons. Insomnia contributing factors 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.
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 not only the quantity of sleep but the quality of sleep pregnant women experience and potential birth complications. These complications can include an increased risk of low birth weight, and pre-term birth. The reason researchers believe there is a potential link between complications at birth and the sleep patterns of pregnant women is 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. When women are depressed during pregnancy, this can have its own set of potential effects and lead to an increased risk of complications like pre-term birth.
While there are potentially harmful effects of not getting enough sleep during pregnancy, it can be difficult to combat the problem. There are limited medications pregnant women can take because of the possible effects on their health and the health of the fetus. Even when medications are considered somewhat safe during pregnancy, many times pregnant women don’t want to take them anyway. 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 is a naturally-occurring hormone produced by the human brain. It’s produced in what’s called the pineal gland in the brain. The role of melatonin is to control sleep-wake cycles and the natural circadian rhythms. Specific hormones are released at certain times throughout the day, and as the body starts to prepare for sleep in the early evening, melatonin is one of those hormones that goes into effect. The body’s hormonal system is also responsible for helping people rise in the morning and get ready to be active during the day. Melatonin, along with helping people fall asleep, has other benefits. It is an antioxidant, it can serve as an anti-inflammatory, and it can regulate fat cells.
While the body does make its own melatonin, it’s used as a supplement by people who may struggle with insomnia or sleep disorders. Melatonin can be taken not only for insomnia but also for things like jet lag or other conditions where the circadian rhythms are affected. Melatonin has been shown in some studies to help how long people sleep, reduce the time it takes them to fall asleep, and reduce awakenings during the night. For most people who use melatonin as a supplement, side effects are minimal. Some potential side effects can include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, and irritability. Melatonin can interact with some drugs including blood thinners and diabetes medications.
In terms of taking melatonin while pregnant, there’s not a lot of concrete evidence that proves it’s safe or unsafe. Also, since there is no standard dosage for melatonin, this can create its own risks as well. There is one animal study on melatonin during pregnancy showing that it could have a negative effect on baby birth weight, maternal weight, and baby mortality. 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 woman include a lower risk of intrauterine growth retardation, protection against oxidative stress, and protection against neurobehavioral disorders. It may also help with healthy brain development, but these positive effects may stem more from the role of natural melatonin and don’t necessarily speak to the safety of melatonin as a supplement.
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 something that’s definitive based on current research. Recommendations for treating insomnia while pregnant include cutting off all electronic screens an hour before trying to go to sleep, and keeping a comfortable, clutter-free bedroom. Pregnancy pillows can be helpful, particularly as women are in their second and third trimesters. They provide support and can improve sleep quality. Pregnant women should try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Having a relaxing routine before bedtime is helpful. This can be different for everyone but can include things 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.
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