Many women experience some degree of sleep disturbance during pregnancy. For a significant number of women, the sleep disruption may be so severe as to require some type of intervention. In a previous post, we discussed the use of different types of medications to treat insomnia during pregnancy. While these drugs are highly effective, many women with sleep problems inquire about the use of “natural” agents, such as melatonin, during pregnancy.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland which is involved in regulating normal sleep-wake cycles. It is also sold over the counter as a nutritional supplement and is a popular natural remedy for sleep problems.
When it comes to pregnancy, however, natural does not necessarily mean safer. Although melatonin is indeed “natural” and is normally produced by the body, the amount delivered by various over-the-counter preparations typically exceeds the quantities normally produced by the body. As is the case with most supplements, we know very little about the impact these high levels of hormones may have on the developing fetus. Thus, we typically advise women with sleep problems to use medications with a better characterized reproductive safety profile.
Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD