Potential utility of melatonin as an antioxidant during pregnancy and in the perinatal period

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2012 Mar;25(3):207-21. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2011.573827. Epub 2011 May 11.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a critical role in the pathogenesis of various diseases during pregnancy and the perinatal period. Newborns are more prone to oxidative stress than individuals later in life. During pregnancy, increased oxygen demand augments the rate of production of ROS and women, even during normal pregnancies, experience elevated oxidative stress compared with non-pregnant women. ROS generation is also increased in the placenta during preeclampsia. Melatonin is a highly effective direct free-radical scavenger, indirect antioxidant, and cytoprotective agent in human pregnancy and it appears to be essential for successful pregnancy. This suggests a role for melatonin in human reproduction and in neonatal pathologies (asphyxia, respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, etc.). This review summarizes current knowledge concerning the role for melatonin in human pregnancy and in the newborn. Numerous studies agree that short-term melatonin therapy is highly effective in reducing complications during pregnancy and in the neonatal period. No significant toxicity or treatment-related side effects with long-term melatonin therapy in children and adults have been reported. Treatment with melatonin might result in a wide range of health benefits, including improved quality of life and reduced healthcare costs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Perinatal Care
  • Pre-Eclampsia / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / adverse effects*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / drug therapy*


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Melatonin