Melatonin is a lipophilic hormone synthesized and secreted mainly in the pineal gland, acting as a neuroendocrine transducer of photoperiodic information during the night. In addition to this activity, melatonin has shown an antioxidant function and a key role as regulator of physiological processes related to human reproduction.
Melatonin is involved in the normal outcome of pregnancy, beginning with the oocyte quality, continuing with embryo implantation, and finishing with fetal development and parturition. Melatonin has been shown to act directly on several reproductive events, including folliculogenesis, oocyte maturation, and corpus luteum (CL) formation. The molecular mechanism of action has been investigated through several studies which provide solid evidence on the connections between maternal melatonin secretion and embryonic and fetal development. Melatonin administration, reducing oxidative stress and directly acting on its membrane receptors, melatonin thyroid hormone receptors (MT1 and MT2), displays effects on the earliest phases of pregnancy and during the whole gestational period.
In addition, considering the reported positive effects on the outcomes of compromised pregnancies, melatonin supplementation should be considered as an important tool for supporting fetal development, opening new opportunities for the management of several reproductive and gestational pathologies.