Can I Take Melatonin While Pregnant?

While melatonin is a popular supplement for certain sleep conditions like jet lag, there isn't strong evidence to recommend its use during pregnancy.

Researchers don't know enough about how higher melatonin levels in the body can affect a developing human fetus. Fortunately, there are other pregnancy-safe sleep aid options that you can discuss with a healthcare provider.

This article provides an overview of whether melatonin is safe during pregnancy and outlines alternatives for sleep support throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Pregnant woman holding her belly

Kelvin Murray / Getty Images

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your body's sleep/wake cycle. Naturally produced by the brain's pineal gland, melatonin is also available as an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement.

Melatonin and Pregnancy: Safe or Unsafe?

Overall, experts don't know much about the long-term use of melatonin supplements. Though they appear to be safe when used short term in the general population, there isn't enough information to conclude how safe they might be in pregnant people.

Although the melatonin naturally produced in the body is necessary for fetal development, there are some potential concerns about how it may affect a growing baby when used as a supplement. For example:

  • Melatonin supplement dosages are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • The body's melatonin levels naturally rise during pregnancy, so adding a melatonin supplement could make this level too high.
  • Though it's unclear whether the results transfer to humans, some animal studies of melatonin supplementation during pregnancy showed a negative impact on a baby's weight, growth, and mortality.

Occasionally, a healthcare provider may recommend a certain amount of melatonin during pregnancy, such as for some people with preeclampsia.

In these specific instances, the benefits of melatonin during pregnancy may outweigh the risks, but that's not always the case. Speaking with a healthcare provider before starting a supplement like melatonin is essential.

The body's melatonin levels naturally rise throughout pregnancy, increasing during the second and third trimesters. This helps with the baby's development in the womb.

What Can I Take to Sleep While Pregnant?

Some research shows that up to 78% of pregnant people experience sleep issues, which might be even higher by the third trimester. Fortunately, there are some alternative options for pregnant people looking to improve their sleep quality without medications or supplements.

Nondrug Pregnancy Sleep Options

To help manage your sleep cycle while pregnant, experts recommend the following:

Additionally, an antihistamine sleep aid known as Unisom (doxylamine) is often prescribed to pregnant people for help treating short-term insomnia. A healthcare provider can help determine whether this medication is best for you.

Melatonin and Breastfeeding

Melatonin—both the natural hormone produced by the body and the supplement form—is transmitted to babies through breast milk.

Evidence shows the melatonin levels your body produces are slightly higher in the evening, which is helpful for newborns.

Though your breastfeeding baby will inevitably be exposed to the body's naturally produced melatonin, there's not enough research on whether taking the supplement while nursing is safe. Experts recommend erring on the side of caution and avoiding melatonin supplements while breastfeeding.

Summary

While melatonin is a popular OTC sleep supplement, more research is needed on the impact melatonin may have on a developing fetus. Because of this, it's a good idea to check with a healthcare provider before starting melatonin to ensure it's right for you. If it's not, alternative sleep aid options may help balance the sleep issues that often come with pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

Every person's body is different and so is every pregnancy. There's not enough evidence to recommend melatonin as safe during pregnancy, but there may be some rare cases in which a healthcare provider deems it to be in the patient's best interest. Overall, it's smart to check with a healthcare provider before starting any supplement when pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much melatonin can you safely take while pregnant?

    There's no solid evidence that melatonin is safe to use during pregnancy. Plus, supplements are not regulated by the federal government the way drugs are. It's best to check with a healthcare provider to see if any amount of melatonin would be appropriate for you to take while pregnant.

  • What else helps with pregnancy insomnia?

    Many find that alternatives such as making lifestyle changes to promote good sleep hygiene, trying cognitive behavioral therapy, taking a prenatal supplement, and incorporating relaxation/mindfulness techniques can help with pregnancy-related insomnia.

  • Can babies take melatonin?

    Research has not proven melatonin supplements to be safe for babies to take. Some studies suggest that melatonin may be helpful for older children for short-term sleep assistance, but the long-term effects of taking it in childhood haven't been well-studied.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Cristina Mutchler
Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content.