Is It Safe To Take Melatonin When You're Pregnant?

When you're growing a baby, it can be particularly difficult to sleep. Aside from general discomfort, effects of pregnancy like acid reflux or the need to use the bathroom can make getting a full night's sleep nearly impossible.

Many people turn to melatonin for some extra help falling asleep. But is it safe to take this supplement when you're pregnant? It's a complex question.

All bodies make melatonin to regulate the circadian rhythm, commonly known as the sleep/wake cycle. But when you're pregnant, your body naturally produces more, according to Healthline. The ovaries and the placenta both produce melatonin, which rises dramatically around 24 weeks of pregnancy and again at 32 weeks. Melatonin is also part of the mechanism that induces labor.

Because it's already present in the body, it would seem like taking a little bit of extra melatonin at night to help bring on sleep would be alright. But doctors actually advise against it. That's because there are no long-term studies that have been performed on humans, so it can't be deemed safe. One study that was done on rats showed negative effects, according to Insider, with pregnant rats giving birth to lighter-weight babies, and gaining less weight themselves.

Researchers also note that melatonin isn't regulated strictly by the Food and Drug Administration, so it can be difficult to know that you're getting exactly what the label claims. Since the effects of melatonin can be passed on to the baby through the placenta, it's not worth taking any risk.

What is safe to use for sleep during pregnancy?

If you're having trouble sleeping during pregnancy, it doesn't mean you're without hope because you shouldn't use melatonin. Dr. Marra Francis, an OB-GYN in San Antonio, Texas told Parents that there are some options. "Tylenol PM is simply acetaminophen mixed with Benadryl, and both drugs alone are generally fine," she said. Other options include Unisom and Nytol.

Before trying any sleep aids, however, it's always wise to make sure you're practicing proper sleep techniques. These include limiting screen time for an hour before you try to fall asleep, setting the temperature low, and darkening the room. For pregnant women, also consider a body pillow that helps support the baby, or place normal pillows between your knees and under the baby, according to Healthline. Also, consider relaxation exercises or breathing, and a warm bath to help you calm down before bedtime.

As always, however, if sleep is simply too elusive, speak with your doctor or healthcare provider for assistance. They may have further insight or ideas that are helpful to both mom and baby.