Tanya Smith Acupuncturist Chinese Medicine Practitioner

You should know about Melatonin and Fertility

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body’s daily rhythm, telling us when to fall asleep and when to wake up. Ever since we developed electricity and the lightbulb, we have been decreasing our body’s secretions of melatonin by being exposed to bright light after it is dark. Jet lag, shift work and poor vision also affect regular melatonin levels. In Chinese Medicine, melatonin could be likened to the functions of healthy Liver energy.

Melatonin also helps control the timing and release of female reproductive hormones. It helps determine when a woman starts to menstruate, the frequency and duration of menstrual cycles, and when a woman stops menstruating (menopause).

They discussed melatonin at the 20th World Congress on Fertility and Sterility in September 2010 and found that the fertilization rate among women who took 3 mg tablets of melatonin (n = 56) during the second IVF cycle were improved compared with those achieved during their first failed cycle, at 50.0% versus 20.2%.  Patients who did not take melatonin (n = 59) experienced no change in fertilization rates.

Melatonin intake also improved pregnancy rates, which were 19.6 percent among women taking supplements compared with 10.2% for the women not taking any.

Melatonin has strong antioxidant effects. Preliminary evidence suggests that it may help strengthen the immune system. This could have an important effect on male fertility.

In an in vitro study involving semen samples taken from 52 men receiving counseling for infertility, semen samples were incubated for 30 minutes with or without 1mm melatonin. Positive correlations were found between melatonin concentrations and sperm concentration, motility and morphology. Additionally, samples incubated with melatonin showed improved percentage of motile and progressively motile cells, and decreased static cells.  High endogenous melatonin concentrations enhance sperm quality and short-term in vitro exposure to melatonin improves aspects of sperm motility. (Source: J Pineal Res 2010 Oct 21)

16 Responses to “You should know about Melatonin and Fertility”

  1. Mandy G. says:

    I keep seeing all over the Internet melatonin is bad, it’s the devil, don’t use it you’ll never ovulate again! But you are saying could improve fertility? I’ve been taking 10 mg a night for about seven months due to insomnia caused by Fibromyalgia. I plan to start “work” on adding another kid to our family this next month and I’m confused what effect my melatonin use will have on my ovulation. What is your advice? Stay on? Get off? Taper down? Help?

    • acutanya says:

      Hi Mandy,
      Thank you for your question. It’s true, it’s confusing.
      My first question would be, over the last 7 months have you noticed a change in your cycle? Is it helping with your sleep?

      With supplements, my answer always is, “it depends”. So I would need to hear more from you before I can give any advice!


  2. kellie says:

    i am trying to conceive my 2nd child, 1st time got pregnant right away with no complications…..i have been trying for 6 months on baby #2, using opks to get the timing right. a friend of mine is going through ivf and recommended a vitamin cocktail that she is on. i want to try it, but melatonin is one of the pills to take, 3mg each night. it seems in my internet searches that melatonin is recommended for people going through ivf, but what about for someone who is not? can melatonin prevent ovulation? thanks

    • acutanya says:

      Hi Kellie,

      Thanks for your question. Yes, the studies showing a positive correlation between 3mg dose of Melatonin and pregnancy rates were with IVF. And Melatonin can interfere with ovulation in normal menstrual cycles. I would avoid the Melatonin in the “vitamin cocktail” if I were in your shoes. Or get tested to see if it would be an appropriate supplement for you.

  3. D says:

    As a graduate student in health sciences, I’ve reviewed a lot of the literature on melatonin. The simple answer is that we really don’t fully know how melatonin acts on fertility – or any other physiological process for that matter.

    Melatonin – like many other hormones – has numerous targets in the central nervous system and in the rest of the body. Furthermore its central release by the pineal gland (which produces most of the body’s circulating melatonin) follows a circadian pattern – which in most people amounts to peak secretion in the middle of the night. This means that the effects of melatonin supplements may differ depending on time of day. If you take supplements at night, it could simple augment your natural nigthtly output, reinforcing natural bodily function. However, the same does taken in the middle of the day may have more disruptive effects.

    As far as reproduction goes, it seems that it’s mostly suppresses fertility in humans. But again, this could vary by individual depending on their existing hormone balance. The main external factor controlling melatonin secretion by the pineal is light exposure. Primarily length of the daily dark cycle (night). The longer the night, the longer melatonin is secreted each night. People that live in environments with more extreme variation in day length year-round have exhibited increased fertility (ovarian activity, shorter menstrual cycles, etc) in summer vs winter.

    The whole phenomenon of melatonin increasing IVF success rates and promoting ovulation in perimenopausal women has likely more to do with melatonin’s anti-oxidant action at the ovaries. Melatonin is a powerful anti-oxidant, and it has been shown that higher levels of melatonin at the ovaries can negate much of the oxidative damage to the follicle produced by progesterone metabolism, etc. Its overall inhibitory effect on fertility, on the other hand, has to do with its action in the hypothalamus (the part of the central nervous system that regulates hormones – gonadotropins such as LH and FSH – that stimulate ovulation). This is a good example of how melatonin can seem to achieve paradoxical effects – but really it’s probably because it is working in different ways in related but fundamentally separate physiological systems.

    In summary, I would think, that for most people, taking small doses (less than 5mg) of melatonin before bed (at night) will probably not interfere with ovulation as you are only subtly reinforcing your natural circadian rhythm. Taking large doses in the middle of the day is probably not a good idea for anyone. If you are prone to having difficulties ovulating due to a less hospitable ovarian environment, melatonin may even help. However, if your difficulties with ovulation is due to a deficient LH surge, it may be better to avoid it.

  4. […] This one is tied to both #1 and #2. The pineal gland, located inside the brain, is responsible for regulating hormone levels in relation to our exposure to sunlight. A poorly functioning pineal gland could be contributing to fertility problems in some couples. When the pineal gland is functioning properly, our sex hormones, emotions, sleep, and spiritual lives will benefit. (Some believe the pineal gland is, actually, the “third eye” and our connection to the spiritual realm.) You can read more about the roles the pineal gland and melatonin play in fertility here. […]

  5. Vik says:

    Very confused.

    We had a stillborn @ 9 mo.s due to cord accident/ lack of Wharton’s jelly. Trying to conceive again. Both are 38 and otherwise healthy.
    I have discontinued melatonin usage after seeing articles like this

    See: http://www.livestrong.com/article/232169-the-effects-of-melatonin-on-reproductive-functions/


    • acutanya says:

      Hi Vik,

      I am sorry to hear of your loss. And I would agree that in your situation melatonin supplementation does not seem to be indicated. The article is specific to using melatonin as a supplement in preparing for IVF.

      All the best.

  6. Mary K. says:

    I have always had regular cycles; every 28 days. I started taking 3-6mg (nightly) of Melatonin about 7 months ago and my cycle started changing (23-29 days). Thought was just age, I am 38 years old. We are planning to start trying next month and worried I messed up my ovulation. If so, can it be reversed/corrected if I stop taking it? I’m so afraid I’ve messed up my chance to become a mom. 🙁

  7. Nastia says:

    Hello, I’m confused about MELATONIN, too. I’m 37, DOR diagnosed with hypothyroidism and insulin resistence problems. For 2 cycles now I’m on ethinylestradiol + natural progesteron. I’m taking euthyrox for thyroid problems and metformin for insulin resistence. My doctor told me about myo-inositol+folic acid+melatonin as supplement that could better the quality of eggs and help to ovulate. I should take all the days morning and evening myo-inositol+folic acid, only from 5dc till ovulation change for myo-inositol+folic acid+MELATONIN in evenings.
    My question is: does it interfere with thyroide medication? Is it better or worst for ovulation? I don’t have much problem with sleeping, so maybe I could take always only myo-inositol+folic acid.
    Also, should I stop taking metformin (2×500 mg) or I could continue while on myo-inositol etc.? I would be very grateful for your response and opinion.

  8. Olive says:

    My 1st IVF has failed, I’m 38, I had a daughter (12 yrs), I have been advised by Dr to take melatonin to prepare for the next cycle of IVF. I’m very confused as a lot of websites saying that Melatonin is not for those who prepare for having baby.
    Please advise me as I will need more gonal F injection in coming time before for eggs retrieval.
    Many thanks

    • acutanya says:

      Hi Olive,

      My reply is too late for you, but perhaps it will help someone else reading this post.
      In preparation for an IVF cycle, melatonin seems to be beneficial. In a natural cycle, melatonin supplementation can interfere with ovulation.

      I wish you all the best.

  9. jodi harding says:

    I see this discussion is old. I am researching if taking melatonin suppliment as a preteen can have later effects on fertility and menstal cycle in the future. My daughter has a difficult time falling alseep and a small amount of melatonin helps her but I ant to be careful of future issues it might cause. So just searching for others thoughts. Thanks!

    • acutanya says:

      Hi Jodi,

      To be honest, I don’t know what effects long term supplementation of melatonin would have on future fertility. Most of the research I have done with respect to melatonin has been with regard to infertility. Sorry I couldn’t be more help, I just wanted to say how glad I am to see that you are not taking this supplementation lightly. Anything that affects one hormone, affects all of the hormones in the body.

  10. Jennifer Birk says:

    Hi – my cycles were like clockwork until 2 things: 1) my 6-yr-old suddenly had trouble sleeping, so he’d fall asleep with me, and I’d sleep from 8-11 or so, then put him in his bed and be up until 2 or 3AM, and also 2) I’m and artist and bought massive daylight lightbulbs that I used from 11PM-2 or 3AM so I could see while I worked. My period is now almost 2 months’ over due, and I’ve taken 2 pregnancy tests which were negative. I had read that melatonin could really affect ovulation and cycles and it sounds like I’ve messed mine up. Should I take melatonin to get my cycles back? My son is now sleeping in his room again, I’m going to bed at a regular time, and I’ve taken the daylight bulbs out of the room.

    • acutanya says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      In your case I would not recommend taking melatonin, but simply letting your body adjust and find it’s own cycle again. You can use the concept of Lunaception to help you get back on track. Here’s a link to a great post describing the process: http://www.mynaturalfertility.com/index.php?idx=lunaception

      Your body knows what to do, you just need to give it the right environment!

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