Insomnia Treatments That Are Safe For Pregnancy
It should be noted that treating insomnia, or sleep disruptions, in pregnancy is really important since insomnia during the pregnancy comes with its own set of risks, including postpartum depression and anxiety, Dr. Lasseter says. And since melatonin supplements and other sleep aids arent proven safe for pregnancy, its a good idea to be familiar with the other available treatment options:
- Safest and most effective: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, or CBT-I
- Most widely-studied medication: Doxylamine
- Alternative wellness options:Yoga, mindfulness meditation, acupuncture
Note: As with any treatment during pregnancy, talk to your provider/ob-gyn about which options are best for you in your unique pregnancy.
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Is It Safe To Take Melatonin During Pregnancy
Melatonin is not commonly prescribed during pregnancy. Quite simply, there just has not been a lot of research to show how pregnant people respond to it.
There is currently minimal safety data available regarding the use of melatonin in pregnancy, says Danielle Jones, MD, an OB/GYN and creator of the Mama Doctor Jones blog. Although we don’t have any data to suggest a clear evidence of harm, we also lack data to indicate that this supplement is safe.
Research published in 2022 reviewed available studies in humans, and suggested that while melatonin is “probably” safe during pregnancy and lactation, there is a lack of randomized, controlled studies examining its safety and efficacy. It also noted that none of the studies measured how well melatonin treats insomnia.
Theres also the issue of quality control. As a dietary supplement, melatonin is not regulated closely by the Federal Drug Administration the way over-the-counter medication or prescription drugs are.
Researchers have found that melatonin supplements may contain a much higher or lower dose of the hormone than their labels indicate. Some even contained ingredients not listed on the label. Ingesting a higher dose of a supplement or unknown ingredients isn’t good for anyone, but especially concerning for pregnant people.
Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking melatonin while pregnant.
Treatments For Pregnancy Discomforts
If you are experiencing one of the many pregnancy discomforts that are making a good nights sleep feel unattainable, you might want to consider treating the underlying symptoms rather than seeking a pregnancy sleep aid. While not specifically for sleep disorders, these pregnancy-safe medications and dietary supplements can help you get more rest.
- Restless leg syndrome is often linked to low iron or pregnancy anemia, so taking folic acid or iron supplements may help relieve your symptoms. Talk to your provider about these concerns before starting any supplements..
- If your morning sickness is extremeespecially if its severe and interfering with sleep consistentlyyour doctor may prescribe an anti-nausea medication such asDiclegis orZofran. For milder cases,ACOG recommends taking a combination of Unisom along with vitamin B6 to combat nausea and insomnia.
- Some over-the-counter antacidscontaining calcium carbonate, like Tums, are usually considered safe in pregnancy and can relieve the heartburn and indigestion that tends to keep pregnant people up at night. Still, you should talk to your healthcare provider about other types of antacids because antacids with ingredients like magnesium trisilicate and sodium bicarbonate may not be recommended.
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Are There Other Natural Remedies For Pregnancy Insomnia
The thing to know here is that natural doesnt necessarily mean safe. Melatonin may not have any major known risks to pregnant or nursing mothers, or to their babies, but that doesnt mean the same can be said for all supplements. Naturally occurring products are often assumed to be harmless when in fact, some may be dangerous.
We used to have things like Motherisk where you could call about natural products, but right now in Canada, we dont have access to that, Bogler says, suggesting that its better to be safe than sorry.
Sleep deprivation and exhaustion can be incredibly difficult, but supplements like melatonin arent necessarily the answer. If you find yourself struggling to sleep while pregnant or nursing, ask your doctor for supportthey may be able to offer solutions outside the vitamin aisle.
Taking Melatonin While Pregnant: Should You Be Worried
For most adults, melatonin is considered safe to take on a short-term basis, but more research is needed on the long-term effects of melatonin usage. However, when it comes to taking melatonin during pregnancy, theres been a lack of research on whether melatonin is safe to use in pregnant or breastfeeding women.3
Considering that women produce more melatonin during pregnancyespecially in the third trimesterthen taking extra melatonin through a supplement could affect both the expectant mom and her developing baby. The issue is that the medical community just isnt sure yet what the extent of that impact would be.3
Why? There havent yet been enough melatonin pregnancy studies, so theres no long-term data available. Of the research thats been done, the studies have either been small or only tested on animals. Based on this limited research, its hard to know if the small-study results could be replicated on a larger scale. Similarly, its unclear if the results generated from the study of melatonin on pregnant rats would lead to the same results in pregnant women.
Further, because research has not proven whether its safe to take melatonin while pregnant there is no standard dosage that exists for taking melatonin during pregnancy. So, even though melatonin is widely available on store shelves, it would be challenging for pregnant women to take on their own because theres no guidance on how much to take.
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Why Melatonin Isn’t Recommended During Pregnancy
“Most doctors do not recommend melatonin supplementation during pregnancy,” says Simpson.
Lisa Valle, DO, an OB-GYN at Oasis WSFC, agrees, noting that melatonin affects many systems and no long-term data is available on its safety during pregnancy.
The few studies that do exist are either small or have only been done in animals. For example, a small 2018 study in the Journal of Pineal Research, included 20 pregnant women who had early-onset preeclampsia. The researchers reported that taking melatonin helped extend the duration of a woman’s pregnancy compared to study controls. However, more research is needed in larger samples to determine if doctors should prescribe melatonin to reduce the risk of premature birth in women with preeclampsia.
Moreover, a 2013 study done on rats found that pregnant rats given melatonin gained less weight and gave birth to lighter babies. But it’s unclear if this would lead to the same outcome in humans.
Since taking melatonin while pregnant hasn’t been studied enough, Valle says it’s hard to know what would happen if a pregnant person took too much melatonin. “Short-term side effects can include nausea, headache, and drowsiness and fatigue.”
Instead of melatonin supplements, Simpson says, many doctors recommend non-pharmacological strategies to aid sleep, such as relaxation techniques, a warm bath before bed, and dietary modifications. When in doubt, reach out to your healthcare provider.
Melatonin Dietary Supplements: Are They Safe For Pregnant Women
So far, only very limited research has been conducted on pregnant women to investigate the effects of melatonin. However, some of these, as well as several animal studies, indicate that pregnant mothers may benefit from supplementing with melatonin.
For example, studies show that melatonin may improve uterine and placental health, boosting fertility and helping to keep both you and your baby safe during pregnancy. It also seems to decrease the risks of preterm birth, as well as endometriosis and preeclampsia a serious condition associated with high blood pressure and sometimes too much protein in the urine.
However, when were looking at the question can you take melatonin while pregnant?, we need to weigh those benefits against the risks. There are several things to consider here:
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When To Talk To A Healthcare Provider
Every pregnancy is different, and there isnt a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to melatonin or other supplement use during pregnancy. But generally speaking, its best not to take melatonin during pregnancy before checking in with your OB-GYN. More research is needed to determine if melatonin supplements could be unsafe during pregnancy .
If youre pregnant, its best to consult a healthcare provider before taking any medications or supplements. They can advise you on what is safe for you to take and a specific dosage to use.
Nondrug Pregnancy Sleep Options
To help manage your sleep cycle while pregnant, experts recommend the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia
- Good sleep hygiene habits, such as using supportive blankets and pillows and keeping a steady bedtime
- Relaxation and mindfulness practices
Additionally, an antihistamine sleep aid known as Unisom 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.
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What If I Took Melatonin Before I Realized I Was Pregnant
If youve been taking a melatonin supplement and then you discover youre pregnant, you likely have no cause for concern. A review of fifteen studies found that melatonin use during pregnancy is probably safe for humans. Once you know youre pregnant, though, consider discontinuing the supplement until you talk to a doctor. While more clinical studies are on the way for pregnant people, for now there is a lack of sufficient research.
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Is Melatonin Safe To Take During Pregnancy
Studies show that melatonin is safe to take during pregnancy, but there are recommendations to take it for only short periods of time, says Lindemann. All high-quality studies I’m aware of have found up to 10mg of melatonin nightly to be safe and no credible studies have linked it to any birth defects, adds Marchand.
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Potential Side Effects Of Melatonin
Although melatonin is considered non-toxic, there are still mild symptoms and side effects associated with taking higher doses as well as extended-release formulations.
Adverse effects from taking high doses of melatonin include the following:
Historically, physicians and health care professionals have encouraged individuals to avoid melatonin use during pregnancy due to a lack of safety profile. This is more about the lack of studies conducted than adverse events being reported.
Other Ways To Address Poor Sleep During Pregnancy
Fortunately, there are some additional steps you can take to improve your sleep during pregnancy. A systematic review of sleep studies found limited that the following approaches could help improve sleep during pregnancy:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
Another strategy that could work is simply changing your sleep position. Sleeping on your side is generally recommended during pregnancy and you cant go wrong incorporating more blankets and pillows for support.
Then, of course, there are sleep hygiene tips that are beneficial for everyone, pregnant and otherwise. You can consider decreasing your screen time before bed, cutting back on caffeine, budgeting time for winding down at night, dimming your lights, and keeping your routine consistent. These steps can help your body know when its time to get a nights rest.
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A Gap In Health Research
While early research is encouraging, there remains a lack of clinical trials examining the use of melatonin to treat sleep issues during pregnancy.
Pregnant people are often excluded from research into the efficacy and safety of medications. Until recently, pregnant people were considered a federally protected, vulnerable population, which made it more challenging to include them in research studies. This means that the effects on pregnant people are unknown for a large number of drugs on the market.
Fortunately, the National Institute of Health is working to close this gap and reduce the barriers preventing the inclusion of pregnant people in research studies. Additionally, organizations like MotherToBaby connect pregnant people with studies to help increase scientific knowledge on the safety of medications and vaccines in pregnancy.
What Are Other Sleep Tips To Use Instead Of Melatonin
Other sleep tips to use instead of melatonin comprise healthy lifestyle habits. The good news is that anyone can practice these sleeping tips. Sleep tips other than using melatonin are listed below.
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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 isnt 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
- 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.
Melatonin Levels In Your Body
Melatonin supplements usually contain 1-3 milligrams of melatonin. This massively increases the levels of melatonin in your body by 20 times. And considering your body produces extra melatonin while youre pregnant, the bottom line is that we dont yet know how safe that much melatonin is for you or your baby.
Not to mention that taking extra melatonin has been known to cause nightmares, which is really the last thing you need when you already have so much to deal with.
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Can Melatonin Hurt Someone Who Is Pregnant
Since melatonin is produced naturally by the body, there is little to no proof that it has negative effects during pregnancy, both on the parent and the fetus. However, negative side effects can be experienced, including drowsiness, depression, and anxiety. Again, talk to your doctor before you take any supplement during pregnancy, including melatonin.
Potential Benefits Of Melatonin During Pregnancy
Although studies on melatonin use in pregnancy are still scant, there are a few areas of ongoing research that have experts’ attention. For instance, animal studies suggest melatonin supplementation may help decrease the risk of intrauterine growth restriction and preeclampsia.
However, these early findings are not conclusive enough to prompt any major medical organizations to recommend melatonin for pregnant people. Neither the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists nor the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine endorse melatonin use in pregnancy.
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Are Melatonin Supplements Safe During Pregnancy
The short answer: we dont know. The safety of any medication taken during pregnancy is determined by thorough research, and the research of melatonin supplements is still ongoing, so scientists and doctors dont have enough information yet about the effects it can have on a developing fetus.
You probably know that your brain produces melatonin naturally to regulate your bodys ability to sleep and be awake, but if it doesnt produce enough, a melatonin supplement is sometimes appropriate to get your brain back to the levels it needs.
So how exactly does a melatonin supplement affect your natural melatonin levels? When taken as a supplement, says Dr. Kristin Lasseter, reproductive psychiatrist at Clinic of Austin and co-host of the WomenWell online community, this changes the normal amount naturally found in the body to levels up to twenty times higher. We dont know what unnaturally high amounts of this hormone do to a baby or to a pregnancy though.
Researchers do know that developing fetuses brains actually take in some of your natural melatonin as it crosses the placenta, Dr. Lasseter explains, and there are certain times during the pregnancy when melatonin levels are naturally higher, such as the third trimester, indicating that it likely plays a very important role in the pregnancy and babys development.
Is It Safe To Take Melatonin While Pregnant
Some studies have highlighted that there are reproductive benefits to taking melatonin before … conception.
While many parents expect to lose some shut-eye after giving birth, a study has found that as many as three in four pregnant people experience insomnia during late pregnancy. One of the most common causes of this is hormone fluctuations and anxiety. This could make you tempted to reach for the natural supplement melatonin to help you get a better nights sleep. But is it safe to take melatonin while pregnant? Some studies have highlighted that there are reproductive benefits to taking the supplement before conception. However, during pregnancy, your body naturally produces more melatonin than normal.
Your body produces the hormone melatonin naturally. It helps regulate your body clock. However, some people choose to take melatonin supplements if they find that they experience poor quality sleep. Healthline explains that when youre pregnant, your ovaries and placenta produce higher levels of melatonin and use it throughout your pregnancy and delivery. The publication reports that your melatonin levels rise at 24 weeks and then again at 32 weeks. So, taking a melatonin supplement on top of this while pregnant will mean your melatonin levels are much more elevated than pre-pregnancy.
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