Melatonin is a hormone that your brain naturally produces in response to darkness — and, when taken as a supplement, it can offer a myriad of benefits. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, melatonin can help with regulating your circadian rhythm (your 24-hour internal clock), jet lag, and anxiety before and after surgeries. It's also been shown to potentially aid in symptoms for those who have COVID-19 and cancer, though further research is still necessary. However, most people use melatonin to help them fall asleep.
Research shows that melatonin does indeed help with sleep quality; however, doctors generally do not recommend people take these supplements for a long period of time, as there's a lack of studies on long-term use. That said, you're unlikely to become dependent on the supplement or become used to its effects, which are known risks with other sleep aids, according to the Mayo Clinic.
One safety concern that is very important to note: melatonin supplements can interact with certain medications, and some medical professionals say that includes hormonal birth control pills. Does that mean you can't take melatonin if you're on birth control? Not quite — but there's more to know. Ahead, experts explain what you need to know about taking melatonin and birth control and whether or not it's something you need to worry about.
How Does Melatonin Affect Birth Control?
There is no current data or research that confirms melatonin supplements cannot be taken with oral contraceptives, says Kim Langdon, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn in Ohio. In other words, there's no reason to worry about melatonin reducing the effectiveness of your birth control since there's "no data to indicate it's a problem," she says.
However, some medical professionals do have theories on how melatonin supplements could potentially interact with oral contraceptives.
For one, melatonin is naturally produced in the pineal gland, the same gland that regulates sex hormones, says Savita Ginde, MD, a physician and women's healthcare specialist, and the former chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. And while there are no definitive studies, "one can propose that taking or adding external melatonin could impact natural cycles, whether it's natural sleep cycles or natural hormonal cycles, such as those that impact ovulation and menstrual cycles and thus affect fertility," Dr. Ginde explains.
Still, that's unlikely to impact birth control effectiveness, Dr. Langdon says, because oral birth control pills work by suppressing ovulation. And while melatonin may affect sex hormones such as
estrogen or progesterone, it's unlikely to affect follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, the two hormones that control ovulation, she explains.
It's also worth considering where and how the body processes melatonin. Melatonin is metabolized in the liver — the same place birth control pills are metabolized, Heather Bartos, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn, tells POPSUGAR. So, theoretically, "by asking the liver to do double duty, it could lower the effectiveness of the birth control pill," she says. This is the same reason certain antibiotics and other medications and supplements can also interfere with the metabolization of birth control, she explains. However, again, there is no research that confirms melatonin makes your birth control any less effective, says Dr. Langdon.
It's also important to note that melatonin may interact with certain types of birth control pills differently than others, though there hasn't been enough research conducted to determine exactly how and to what extent that's the case.
So, Should You Stop Taking Melatonin While on Birth Control?
In all, if you're taking melatonin more than "every so often," both Dr. Bartos and Dr. Ginde recommend talking to your doctor to ensure that you're protected from unwanted pregnancy and that your sleep issues are being adequately treated. "If sleep is an issue, don't self-diagnose," Dr. Ginde says. "Talk with your physician about solutions, and if melatonin is part of that plan, you and your doctor can review if and how a particular dose will impact your specific type of birth control."
The bottom line as we know it is this: if you're regularly reaching for melatonin supplements while also being on the pill, it's probably nothing to be worried about, but it's still a good idea to consult your doctor.
— Additional reporting by Taylor Andrews