Cardiovascular and neurological diseases can originate in early life. Melatonin, a biologically active substance, acts as a pleiotropic hormone essential for pregnancy and fetal development. Maternal melatonin can easily pass the placenta and provide photoperiodic signals to the fetus. Though melatonin uses in pregnant or lactating women have not yet been recommended, there is a growing body of evidence from animal studies in support of melatonin as a reprogramming strategy to prevent the developmental programming of cardiovascular and neurological diseases. Here, we review several key themes in melatonin use in pregnancy and lactation within offspring health and disease. We have particularly focused on the following areas: the pathophysiological roles of melatonin in pregnancy, lactation, and fetal development; clinical uses of melatonin in fetal and neonatal diseases; experimental evidence supporting melatonin as a reprogramming therapy to prevent cardiovascular and neurological diseases; and reprogramming mechanisms of melatonin within developmental programming. The targeting of melatonin uses in pregnancy and lactation will be valuable in the prevention of various adult chronic diseases in later life, and especially cardiovascular and neurological diseases.
Keywords: cardiovascular disease; developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD); developmental programming; hypertension; lactation; melatonin; neurological disease; oxidative stress; pregnancy.