What You Need To Know About Taking Melatonin During Pregnancy

I spent the good part of my second trimester sleeping upright in order to alleviate a persistent back pain. Turns out, my little one had nested in a spot just under my ribs, triggering a mid-back ache that hurt more when I lie down. I would have loved to earn more shut-eye during that time, but I also worried about how certain suggestions, like a Benadryl-induced slumber and even essential oils, might affect my growing baby. One friend said melatonin worked wonders for her erratic sleep habits, but she wasn't pregnant. I wondered: Can you take melatonin while pregnant?

"Nutrition is not a black-and-white science, so you always must base recommendations on a prevalence of the evidence," Elizabeth Somer, an award-winning registered dietitian and medical expert with Vitamin Packs, tells Romper in an email interview. "In the case of melatonin supplements and pregnancy, there is next to no research on the safety or harm in taking these supplements." Oh. So that's comforting, right?

Somer explains that, while melatonin is naturally produced in the body, melatonin as a supplement is not regulated, so "ensuring the supplement you take is high quality and has the amount listed on the label is an issue."

But what exactly is melatonin and how could it affect both you and your baby? According to the Mayo Clinic, the hormone melatonin plays a role in your natural sleep-wake cycle. Natural levels of melatonin in the blood are highest at night, but some research suggests that melatonin supplements taken at the right time might be helpful in helping you more effectively snooze. It sounds natural and seems like an easy way to help your body do what it needs to — catch those ZZZs.

But Somer emphasizes that while the right type and dosage of melatonin might be safe to take during pregnancy, it's important to discuss it with your healthcare provider, as with all dietary supplements.

Want to avoid melatonin and get a little bit of natural help snoozing? Try a cup of herbal tea, like chamomile, an hour or so before bed. Take it from me, you definitely don't want to drink it too close to bed or your pregnancy bladder will come a-knockin' just as you start to doze. According to The Bump, magnesium supplements might also do the trick, since the mineral is known to alleviate muscle pain, which — as it was in my case — may be the cause of your interrupted sleep as your belly continues to grow. Just check with your doctor about the correct dosage, since too much magnesium can cause diarrhea.

Of course, you may also want to try a nifty body pillow to ease discomfort while sleeping. Before pregnancy, I was determined to avoid bringing the rather large pillow in bed with me. But then all of a sudden, week 20ish rolled around and I couldn't snuggle up to it quick enough. I went with the elongated version, but you might also try the crowd-favorite U-shaped pillow. My husband, the 11-year-old boy, laughed when he saw it because it looks rather vaginal (to teenage boys and grown men who act like them), but women who know what pregnancy feels like say it's as if "you are surrounded by a cloud" while sleeping. No matter the pillow you choose, experts suggest sleeping on your left side with knees and legs bent, and a pillow between them.

As for me, my back pain miraculously went away during my third trimester, but not before I added it to the list of things I will use as leverage during my daughter's teenage years, including "I wiped your butt" and "because I birthed you." It's the small things in motherhood, am I right?