In this article, we discuss what melatonin is and the somewhat surprising connection between melatonin and fertility.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the pineal gland. It regulates circadian rhythm, our body’s ‘built-in’ sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is also an antioxidant that helps your body manage oxidative stress (OS).
During the nighttime, your body produces and releases more melatonin than it does during the rest of the day. Artificial light emanating from your computer, tablet, television, or phone can reduce melatonin production in your body. When light disrupts generation of melatonin, this warps your body’s internal clock. This disruption may affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Melatonin and Fertility
Surprisingly, low levels of melatonin may make it harder to conceive.
How do we know that? Well, studies show that higher levels of melatonin may lead to better pregnancy outcomes for women undergoing controlled ovarian stimulation for in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Melatonin: the antioxidant that improves conception
The imbalance between antioxidants (which are helpful to our cells), and pro-oxidants (which are not), creates OS in our bodies. While OS is a normal process in your body that’s essential for cell survival, it can go into overdrive. If this happens, it can cause harm to your cells. Lack of sleep, drugs, alcohol, environmental factors, obesity, and undernutrition can all cause OS. Moreover, ultimately, OS has a negative impact on fertility.
The oxygen-scavenging properties of melatonin may be at the root of how it helps improve fertility outcomes.
Melatonin has the edge over some other antioxidants, too. Many antioxidant compounds produce a small amount damaging oxygenation during the antioxidation process. Melatonin, however, has a unique ability not to promote damaging oxygenation.
When follicular fluid contains higher levels of melatonin, we tend to see more and better-quality oocytes. These oocytes are the cells that eventually mature into eggs. Melatonin supplementation has also been shown to improve egg and embryo quality. The ability of melatonin to reduce oxidative damage and protect oocytes from OS likely leads to enhanced egg and embryo quality, and higher fertilization rates during IVF.
Melatonin, myo-inositol, and D-chiro-inositol: benefits for PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may present unique challenges for fertility, and since some women with PCOS may have abnormally low levels of melatonin, supplementation may be beneficial for improving fertility outcomes.
Inositol and melatonin may offer fertility benefits for women with PCOS who have poor egg quality by improving ovarian stimulation and pregnancy outcomes. These two nutrients have been shown to work together to improve egg and embryo quality. Melatonin has also been shown to normalize menstrual cycles in women with PCOS.
Melatonin supplements: purity, content accuracy and freedom from contaminants
Independent testing and certification are essential for melatonin supplements because the quality and purity can vary substantially. A recent study tested the content of 30 different melatonin products. Researchers found that 71% of the supplements tested did not contain the amount of melatonin they claimed. The melatonin content in these supplements ranged from 83% below to as much as 478% above the amount declared on the label. Also, researchers found contamination with serotonin (a potent neurotransmitter) in 26% of the products they tested. NSF® International or USP provide third-party testing and certification for dietary supplements, so look for these on your supplement label.
Tips on taking melatonin
If you decide to take a melatonin supplement for fertility, remember that it may not appropriate for every woman trying to get pregnant. Research shows that melatonin is beneficial for women going through ovarian stimulation for fertility treatments.
Melatonin has also been shown to be helpful for women with PCOS, by improving menstrual regularity and lowering androgen levels. Check with your healthcare provider about whether taking melatonin is appropriate for you if you are trying to conceive naturally.
Also, consult with your healthcare provider before taking melatonin if you are being treated or an auto-immune disease, depression, diabetes, seizure disorder, or thyroid disease.
To maximize your natural melatonin production, turn off your TV, tablet or phone well before bedtime. Also, timing counts when taking a melatonin supplement. Please remember that you should take it 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime.
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