Melatonin in pregnancy


Melatonin  is a hormone that is normally secreted by our pineal gland. But we can also take it through medicines and food supplements: surely many of us will have happened to take it on certain occasions to sleep.

It performs various functions in our body. In particular: it implements antioxidant and immunomodulatory actions (induction of fundamental substances for the regulation of the activity of the immune system), it acts as a neurotransmitter (it conveys information between neurons).

It also intervenes in the regulation of our circadian rhythm and sleep / wakefulness processes. For this reason it is also called the “sleep hormone”.

The properties of melatonin-based products

In the short term, melatonin-based products can be useful for the regularity of our biological clock and therefore they can also be useful for us to regain our normal sleep rhythm.

Melatonin-based supplements in particular,

  • they help to alleviate the effects of jet lag: this beneficial effect is obtained – on the first day of the trip and a few days after arrival at the destination – by taking a minimum of 0.5 mg of this substance just before going to bed ;
  • they contribute to reducing the time needed to fall asleep: this beneficial effect is obtained by taking 1 mg of the substance just before going to bed.

As for melatonin-based drugs, they are generally prescribed as monotherapy for the short-term treatment of primary insomnia.

Sleep disturbances during pregnancy

For pregnant women, sleep disturbances can be distressing, but (there is now evidence that) these disturbances may contribute to perinatal depression or anxiety (in the period leading up to and immediately following birth) in some women during pregnancy.

If the woman wants to avoid these problems, the first thing to do is avoid do-it-yourself and home remedies and consult a doctor. Indeed, it must be borne in mind

  1. that sleep disturbances, and lack of sleep in particular, in addition to the disturbances indicated above, lead to an increase in the risk of accidents and possible problems also for the health of the fetus;
  2. that even the assumption of any product – even natural – in itself is not without risk either for the pregnant woman or for the fetus. In fact, the fetus, through the placenta, absorbs most of the products that the mother takes but, unlike this, is not able to process them in the same way.

Is it safe to take melatonin during pregnancy?

We are not aware of any studies showing that taking melatonin during pregnancy is or is not safe. However, melatonin is generally considered safe in the short term , but its long-term effects are not known.

Having said that, we remind you that many differently formulated melatonin-based products can be found on the market:

  • some – what are called food supplements – have doses not exceeding 1 mg, and can be purchased (without a prescription) at the supermarket, or in herbal medicine;
  • those with a dosage of 2 mg, can instead be purchased with a prescription at the pharmacy.

supplements. Among the various types of food supplements, there are also products based on melatonin combined with other active ingredients and other substances: active principles and substances in relation to which it is even more difficult to know the combined effects on the fetus and mother.

medications . When certain drugs are taken together with melatonin-based products, it must be taken into account that melatonin could interfere with their effectiveness. According to the National Institute of Health , melatonin can interfere with the efficacy,

  • anticoagulants;
  • antiepileptics;
  • antihypertensives;
  • drugs that affect the central nervous system, such as sedatives;
  • diabetes medications;
  • of contraceptive drugs;
  • substrates of cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) and cytochrome P450 2C19 (CPY2C19);
  • medications for the treatment of depression;
  • of immunosuppressants.

Where to buy melatonin products

As we said,

  1. melatonin-based medicines can be purchased in pharmacies with a medical prescription,
  2. melatonin-based supplements can instead be purchased in supermarkets, parapharmacies, pharmacies, and also online in e-commerce. As for the latter, our advice is:
  • to research and gather information,
  • to rely on products marketed by brands known to be reliable,
  • to seek advice from the doctor or the owner of the shop you usually go to.

In any case, it must always be taken into account that, especially if taken in large quantities, melatonin can also have unwanted side effects, which differ from person to person. Melatonin – we repeat – should then be taken only for short periods.

An alternative to melatonin: better sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is more important than ever during pregnancy.

In addition to special sleep aids for pregnant women, such as special pillows or eye masks, the following behavioral habits can help reduce insomnia and improve the overall quality of your sleep.

  1. Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet and limit your bed use to sleep and sex.
  2. Prioritize sleep by trying to go to sleep in a “consistent” way, that is, scheduling your daytime naps for the beginning of the day and not at night so that they don’t interfere with your night’s sleep.
  3. Near bedtime, take a bath, read a book, or engage in another relaxing activity.
  4. Use a night light to go to the bathroom and make it easier to fall back to sleep afterwards.
  5. Near bedtime avoid caffeine, spicy foods and heavy meals to reduce the risk of gastroesophageal reflux.
  6. Avoid “bringing technology into the bedroom”: turn off the screens of the various devices at least an hour before going to sleep.
  7. Do some exercise/physical activity at the start of the day.
  8. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but reduce your fluid intake before bed in order to reduce nighttime trips to the bathroom.
  9. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something else until you feel sleepy.
  10. Record your thoughts in a journal.
  11. If you feel stressed, ask your partner, friends for help, see a doctor, take birthing classes.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform,

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