Women who increase their systemic concentration of a hormone known as melatonin during pregnancy might enjoy specific health benefits.
Melatonin is a chemical produced inside and secreted by the brain’s pineal gland. Though the hormone can impact mood, it is primarily responsible for helping regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Typically, secretion of melatonin is correlated with the time of day. During daylight hours, the brain secretes less. However, during the evening and typical nighttime sleeping hours, release of the substance is increased. In addition to systemic production, a synthetic version of the chemical is produced and available for public consumption through a variety of oral supplements.
Pregnancy and Normal Sleep Cycles
Expecting women experience numerous physical and biological changes that often interrupt normal sleeping patterns. As pregnancy progresses, insomnia might be precipitated by the following:
- Physical Changes – As the baby grows, the woman’s anatomy, particularly her midsection, expands. The increased dearth may precipitate abdominal, leg and back discomfort that is exacerbated during the evening.
- Increased Need to Urinate – The increased weight could place undue pressure on the bladder. In such circumstances, expecting women may witness an increased urge to urinate, especially at night.
- Digestive Distress – Some soon-to-be mothers experience digestive manifestations like nausea, vomiting and heartburn. Occasionally, lying down might exacerbate these maladies.
- Hormonal Changes – Pregnant individuals experience significant hormonal fluctuations that can induce insomnia.
- Stress – It is normal for some expecting women to feel anxiety about the health and well-being of their developing child. These concerns might precipitate anxiety symptoms, such as insomnia.
Potential Impact of Insomnia During Pregnancy
Should insomnia progress during pregnancy, affected women might increase their risk of weakening their immune systems, which could increase their risk of developing various infections. This could place both mother and baby at even greater risk for more serious complications such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
Additionally, chronic sleep loss could potentially threaten fetal development. Insomnia can reduce the would-be mother’s blood oxygen levels, and even the smallest reductions could exert a deleterious effect on the fetus. Moreover, diminished sleep could also precipitate a decline in systemic production of the growth hormone, which is vital to proper fetal advancement.
Melatonin During Pregnancy
Fortunately, there are sleep-enhancing methods women could employ to circumvent these potentially serious issues. One such action is to increase one’s intake of melatonin. The most obvious positive influence the hormone can have on an expecting woman is an increased level of sleep and a reintroduction to a more typical sleep-wake cycle.
Additionally, the chemical might have other notable health benefits for both mother and unborn child.
- Protection From Free-Radical Damage – The fetuses of women with certain health conditions might stand at an increased risk of free-radical damage. Free radicals are abnormal atoms that circulate through the body and are a primary precipitator of potentially serious maladies like inflammation. When this condition progresses or is left unchecked, inflammation can lead to cell damage and ultimately diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Exposed fetuses might turn into individuals who have increased risk of developing such ailments and at an earlier age.
- Healthy Labor – Women who maintain adequate or increased melatonin levels during pregnancy often experience easier and less painful periods of labor and fewer delivery complications.
- Normal Sleep-Wake Cycles in Newborns – Proper melatonin maintenance might also prove critical in helping newborns transition into typical sleep-wake cycles.
Obtaining Adequate Melatonin Levels
Expecting women might be able to regulate or increase melatonin concentrations by partaking in activities such as the following:
- Obtaining Proper Rest – Getting as much sleep as possible is vital to ensuring melatonin levels remain optimal.
- Avoiding Caffeine – Many would-be moms enjoy their coffee or other caffeinated foods or beverages. However, such products’ use should be significantly limited or eliminated.
- Reducing Stress – Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to identify some type of stress-reducing activity and partake in the endeavor whenever time permits.
- Augmenting Natural Methods With Melatonin Supplementation – Expecting individuals are also encouraged to ingest melatonin supplements. That said, certain members of the medical community opine that not all these products share equal footing regarding efficacy. They strongly recommend using only pulsatile-release melatonin supplements because these products are thought to be the only ones with the capability of mimicking the body’s actual melatonin-release process.