Healthy sleep plays an important role in life of every person. During pregnancy a good sleep is twice as necessary, because the future mother often feels tired or irritated. Due to insomnia, the body of a pregnant woman is exhausted, and the fetus experiences bad feelings and emotions. Such a state is very dangerous for both. As you might already know, the hormone of sleep is called melatonin. So, what’s the use and danger of melatonin while pregnant?
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland located in the brain. In women, melatonin affects the hormones responsible for reproduction, and can also affect hormones that are responsible for a healthy pregnancy.
Melatonin is produced in our body during sleep. Earlier it was claimed that its synthesis occurs in the epiphysis located in the brain. However, today it is known that melatonin can be produced in the retina of the eyes, the skin, the thyroid gland and even in the gastrointestinal tract. The concentration of melatonin in the blood is unstable and varies depending on the time of the day and season. So the level of the hormone reaches its peak at two at night. By the morning its content in the blood drops to the minimum values. Moreover, the content of melatonin increases by the end of autumn and in winter, when nights become longer.
Traditionally, it was believed that the main function of melatonin is the regulation of daily rhythms, to which the work of all internal organs and systems is subordinated. But recent studies have shown that the ability of the sleep hormone is much broader and more diverse. Melatonin not only makes it easier to fall asleep, slows the aging process down and protects the body from cancer and other serious diseases. It also plays an important role in the therapy of female infertility. Melatonin prevents the development of various complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Interestingly, female sexual activity and fertility, that is, the ability to conceive and give birth to a child depends on the daily and seasonal fluctuations of the hormone in the blood.
What Causes Insomnia during Pregnancy?
The causes of sleep disorders can be very different. Consider the most common of them.
- Psychological factors: a woman can have difficulties with sleep because of her troubling thoughts, fears, anxiety.
- An enlarged stomach squeezes the diaphragm, causes shortness of breath, prevents finding a comfortable position for a woman to sleep.
- Sleep disturbances can be caused by severe itching of the skin of the stomach because of its stretching.
- Frequent urge to urinate, caused by pressure of the increased uterus on the bladder, also do not contribute to calm sleep.
- Due to impaired blood circulation in pregnant women, at night, a feeling of heaviness in the legs or cramps in the calf muscles may be of concern.
- The pressure of the uterus on the stomach can cause heartburn leading to sleep disorders.
- Back pain also forces a woman to wake up often.
- Chronic fatigue does not allow a woman to relax and go to sleep.
- Active movements of the fetus can become the cause of bad sleep.
- One of the causes of insomnia can be an obsessive feeling of hunger, arising at night.
Melatonin while Pregnant: Influence On the Baby
Without melatonin, the full development of the internal organs of the fetus, its brain and immune system is impossible. Penetrating through the placenta, the maternal hormone starts the “internal clock” of the baby’s organism. Due to this the daily rhythms of the mother and her future baby synchronize. Information on the duration of the day and night is transmitted from the mother to the baby.
If a pregnant woman is sleeping badly or has a lack of sleep at night, melatonin is formed in less quantity than necessary. This immediately affects all organs and systems, both of the mother and the baby. Studies have shown that even a small deficit of melatonin while pregnant can lead to hormonal imbalance, impaired placenta condition, fetal activity and heart rate. Lack of melatonin while pregnant can lead to stress, depression, and such pregnancy complications as miscarriage, preeclampsia, eclampsia, fetal hypoxia, and premature birth. That is why it is very important that the organism of the future mother receives a sufficient amount of melatonin, especially in the third trimester. It is no coincidence that some doctors advise planning to conceive in late spring, so that the last period of pregnancy falls on late autumn and winter, when the secretion of melatonin is maximal.
How to Maintain the Right Level of Melatonin?
As you can see, melatonin is vital for the birth of a healthy child. Unfortunately, with age, the level of production of this hormone significantly reduces. Synthesis of melatonin can be disturbed by chronic lack of sleep, non-compliance with the rules of healthy sleep or travel from one time zone to another.
It is not difficult to maintain the level of melatonin at the proper level. First of all, you need to get enough sleep. Not only the duration of sleep, but also its quality is important. The peak of melatonin production falls at night hours – from 23:00 to 5:00, which means that at this time every woman who wants a healthy baby needs to sleep.
In addition to observing the sleep regime, it is important to protect yourself from stress and get more positive emotions. Thus you increase the synthesis of the “hormone of happiness” – serotonin, which is the biological precursor of melatonin. It is equally important to ensure the entry into the body of tryptophan – an amino acid which is necessary for the production of serotonin. An easy way to do this is to consume a sufficient amount of protein foods: red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, soy and other foods. Try to organize your bedroom in such a way as to sleep in total darkness. The light penetrating into the room suppresses the synthesis of melatonin.
Can You Take Melatonin while Pregnant?
Reception of melatonin can lead to adverse consequences (hormonal failures, and as a result, severe course of pregnancy and childbirth), both for the mother and for the unborn baby.
Taking supplements with melatonin while pregnant can alter the levels of estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin, causing developmental disorders in the fetus. Common complications of pregnancy are migraines and insomnia. The most pronounced nature they have during the third trimester. Although it has been found that melatonin facilitates migraine and improves sleep, its use during pregnancy is not considered safe. In addition, the reception of melatonin while pregnant can cause disorders of the digestive system, exacerbating morning sickness.
Reception of artificial melatonin while pregnant can also provoke the appearance of drowsiness during the day, feelings of melancholy or depression, and abdominal pain.
Melatonin is not recommended during pregnancy because it can enter the breast milk, causing adverse effects in newborns.
Women who take supplements with melatonin during breastfeeding should carefully watch the signs of excessive drowsiness, poor muscle tone, vomiting, or poor coordination in their children. If a child has these symptoms, medical help is a must in this case.
Women who intend to take melatonin while pregnant should consult the doctor in advance to discuss possible risks and alternative means.
Side Effects of Taking Melatonin while Pregnant
In general, melatonin while pregnant can cause the following side effects:
- various types of gastrointestinal disorders;
- increased fatigue;
- realistic dreams.
A rash and frequent urination can also take place. Children who are prone to diseases of the nervous system may experience seizures.
After taking medications with melatonin, it is advisable to be careful while driving and working with technical equipment.
Pregnant women who decided to take melatonin while pregnant need to consult a doctor, and perhaps find alternative ways to get rid of the unpleasant consequences of pregnancy. It can be simple physical exercises or a change in the diet, if it includes products containing caffeine, etc.
Before giving birth, a woman should tell the doctor if she took melatonin while pregnant. In this case, the fetus will be regularly and carefully monitored to exclude pathologies. Speaking about ways to overcome insomnia, it is worth mentioning the reduction of the time spent in a computer or mobile phone, the refusal of alcohol and the regulation of stressful conditions.
Insomnia in Pregnant Women: What to Do?
The very first and the most important rule is that you should not treat insomnia during pregnancy on your own. Do not take any medications without consultation of the doctor.
Often the exhausted woman wonders how to overcome sleep disorders. Here are some tips that might help you:
- Avoid hypothermia. Comfortable and pleasant to the touch pajamas will bring positive feelings. Legs should also be kept warm.
- It is necessary to shorten the duration of a day’s sleep.
- Use additional pillows. Put one between the knees, the second pillow – under the back. This will relieve the load from the tired spine.
- Do not sleep on your back. In this situation, the growing uterus exerts a strong pressure on the inferior vena cava, causing the blood flow to the heart to clamp. The posture on the back can cause dizziness, and even faint.
- To reduce fetal activity, change the pose. It is better to sleep on the left side. This position will prevent the appearance of dyspnea.
- Walk outside before going to bed.