Drinking Tea During Pregnancy – Is it Safe?

FAQ

Table of Contents

Around the world, tea is an incredibly popular beverage. It’s no wonder that many women continue to enjoy drinking it throughout their pregnancy. Yet, there are some concerns about whether it’s safe to drink tea while you’re expecting.

Some women drink tea to help them meet the increased need for fluid that comes along with pregnancy. Others drink it simply because they enjoy it. Some even use tea as a remedy to treat unwanted pregnancy-related symptoms, or even as a tonic to help them prepare for the birth during the last few weeks of their pregnancy.

While lots of people think that tea must be safe to drink during pregnancy since it’s natural, this may not necessarily be the case. Some experts have suggested that it could pose potential risks to both mom and baby.

So, what’s the truth of the matter? Should you carry on drinking your favorite brew during those all-important nine months? Or should you switch to a different beverage until after your little one’s arrival? Here, we take a closer look at the evidence so you can make a well-informed decision.

Tea – the Various Types

If you thought that all tea was the same, you’re sure to be surprised to learn that there is a huge range of options available. Tea is the world’s most frequently-consumed beverage and is a key part of many global cultures. Made by steeping dried leaves in boiling water so the flavor infuses, teas may be made from a huge variety of plants. Often, the flavors are enhanced by mixing different kinds of spices and herbs alongside the main leaves to make unique blends.

There are two categories of tea:

  • True tea – for any tea purist, there’s a single kind of tea –tea! Real tea is made from a single plant – Camellia sinensis – with different varieties being created by changing how the tea leaves are processed. Oolong tea, black tea, and green tea are all said to be “real tea” since they all come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Naturally, real teas are caffeinated, however, with extra processing, the caffeine can be removed.
  • Herbal tea – these teas are made from the stems, bark, flowers, or leaves of a range of plants. These teas can be made by steeping leaves in boiling water, but they can also sometimes be made by directly boiling the herbs. Commonly, this method will be used to make tea from stems, bark, and other denser plant parts. Herbal tea will be naturally free of caffeine.

Surely Tea is Safer to Drink in Pregnancy Than Coffee?

Most women are aware that coffee should be consumed with caution during pregnancy due to the high level of caffeine it contains. Tea contains less caffeine when compared to coffee. This leads many people to think tea is safe for consumption when pregnant. It is true that there is less caffeine in tea, but you may need to reduce the amount of tea you drink if you want to avoid consuming excess caffeine each day.

Why is Caffeine a Problem in Pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant, it’s advisable to limit how much caffeine you consume. Doctors often recommend that you have no more than the equivalent of just over one cup of coffee each day. This is because a high level of caffeine consumption during pregnancy may cause your baby to have a low birth weight, and this can lead to an increased risk of health issues later in your baby’s life. Excess caffeine may also increase the risk of miscarriage.

Caffeine naturally occurs in a number of drinks and foods, including coffee, tea, and chocolate. It may also be added to other things such as soft drinks, flu and cold remedies, and energy drinks.

A mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine, while a mug of filter coffee will contain about 140 mg. A cup of tea, in comparison, will rarely contain more than 75 mg of caffeine. It’s usually suggested that to be safe during pregnancy, a woman restricts her daily caffeine consumption to 200 mg or less.

If you’re pregnant and worried about how much caffeine you consume each day, you may be looking for ways to reduce your consumption. Drinking more water or fruit juice could be the answer, but you should avoid colas and energy drinks since both contain caffeine. Switching to tea instead of coffee is a solution that many pregnant women try, but it’s worth remembering that two cups of tea together with a soft drink usually comes out to around your daily 200 mg allowance.

What Should You Know About Drinking Caffeinated Tea In Pregnancy?

There are many different types of tea – oolong, matcha, white, green, and black – but all come from the Camellia Sinensis plant’s leaves. They all also contain caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant, and pregnant women are advised to limit their intake.

different types of tea

Not all types of tea contain the same amount of caffeine. Here is a quick overview of the caffeine content you can expect to find in a 240ml cup of the following teas:

  • Oolong tea – 38-58 mg
  • Matcha – 60-80 mg
  • Black tea – 47-53 mg
  • Green tea – 29-49 mg
  • White tea – 25-50 mg
  • Herbal tea – 0 mg

The problem with caffeine is that it easily crosses the placenta, and then your baby’s liver will struggle to break it down. This means infants have a greater risk of experiencing side-effects from an amount of caffeine that otherwise would be considered to be safe for an adult.

Research has suggested that babies who have been exposed to excess caffeine in pregnancy have a higher chance of being born preterm, with birth defects, or at a low birth weight. A high intake of caffeine in pregnancy might also make a stillbirth or miscarriage more likely.

This all sounds very worrying, so it’s no wonder that many pregnant women are concerned about their choice of beverages. Yet, rest assured that the risks seem to be minimal if caffeine intake is limited to under 300 mg per day.

There are some exceptions to the rule, though. Some women have genetics that makes them hypersensitive to caffeine’s ill effects. This small group of women could have a 2.4 times higher chance of miscarrying if they consume just 100-300mg of caffeine each day during pregnancy. It may, therefore, be wise to err on the side of caution and minimize your tea consumption until after the birth.

Herbal Teas – the Lowdown

Although herbal teas may seem harmless, and may even be suggested as a way of reliving commonly experienced pregnancy symptoms, others are dangerous for consumption during pregnancy, as we’ve already seen.

One problem is that there is minimal research out there about the possible effect of herbal tea consumption when you’re expecting, so you should talk to your doctor before you try any.

Herbal teas are produced by infusing plant material in hot water. They can be made using any or all of the following:

  • Bark
  • Roots
  • Flowers
  • Seeds
  • Berries
  • Leaves

Usually, herbal tea won’t contain any caffeine, but they can sometimes be used for treating upset stomachs, soothing anxiety, or inducing sleep.

When you’re pregnant, commercial brands of pregnancy-friendly herbal teas should usually be safe to consume in moderation. Yet, you should be aware that herbal tea blends and herbs themselves aren’t regulated by the FDA. So, they aren’t subjected to a similar level of scrutiny or review as prescription or over-the-counter medications. Herbal teas may include contaminants such as heavy metals that could prove harmful for you or your baby. The potency and quality of herbal teas may also vary wildly between different products and brands. When you’re shopping for herbal tea, try to buy only from trusted manufacturers that have a good reputation.

Are Herbal Teas a Better Choice in Pregnancy?

Herbal teas often seem to be a safer alternative to caffeinated varieties since they’re made from dried flowers, fruits, herbs, or spices that have no caffeine content. However, they may contain other compounds that could be unsafe for consumption in pregnancy and which could cause unwanted side-effects.

If you’re considering drinking herbal teas, you should be aware of which ones may be dangerous. Some teas increase your chances of preterm labor or miscarriage. Others may stimulate bleeding, and some may increase the chance of your newborn having birth defects. Some have other unpleasant effects for you or your baby. Here, we take a look at some of the herbal teas you should avoid while expecting:

  • Teas that may increase the risk of preterm labor or miscarriage – fenugreek, fennel, vervain, sage, borage, licorice, pennyroyal, motherwort, thyme, black cohosh, blue cohosh, lovage, chamomile, and frankincense.
  • Teas that may stimulate bleeding – lovage, frankincense, and motherwort.
  • Teas that may increase the chance of your baby having birth defects – motherwort, borage, and cinnamon.
  • Teas that may cause vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea – eucalyptus.
  • Teas that may affect your baby’s heart – chamomile.

Some herbal teas also contain some compounds that can interact with common medications. If you’re pregnant, you should tell your doctor or healthcare provider about any type of herbal tea you’re consuming or thinking about consuming during your pregnancy so that any possible interactions can be assessed.

You should also remember that there is very little research out there about herbal teas and their safety during pregnancy. Just because no evidence exists about negative side-effects doesn’t necessarily mean that the herbal tea is safe during pregnancy. You should be cautious about which teas you consume during pregnancy, just to be on the safe side.

What Should I Know About Herbal Teas That Could be Dangerous in Pregnancy?

As we’ve already pointed out, there are certain herbal teas that may be dangerous for consumption in pregnancy and, therefore, should be avoided or used with caution at this important time. Here, we’ll look more closely at those teas so you can be well-informed.

Chamomile tea is used frequently to promote sleep and relieve stress. Having an occasional cup of chamomile tea probably won’t cause any major problems for pregnant women or their babies, but if you drink it in larger quantities or on a regular basis, you could end up with problems. Most doctors and healthcare professionals will advise that you avoid chamomile completely during pregnancy since it could trigger contractions of the uterus that could cause preterm labor or miscarriage.

Also, chamomile may cause negative reactions in those who have an allergy to plants that are part of the Asteraceae family. These include:

  • Marigolds
  • Ragweed
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Daisies

So, if you know you suffer from allergic reactions to any of the above, you should avoid chamomile tea at any time, especially during pregnancy.

Nettle leaf tea could also be unsafe in pregnancy. Although it has an excellent nutritional profile that makes it a popular choice in so-called pregnancy teas, this doesn’t mean that it’s safe for consumption.

In fact, nettle leaf’s use in pregnancy is highly controversial. Some healthcare professionals suggest drinking dried nettle tea as a tonic in the second or third trimester. Others, though, believe that tea that is made from fresh nettles could cause uterine contractions, early labor or miscarriage. So, until studies are available to make the verdict clear, playing it safe may be the best idea and you may wish to avoid nettle leaf tea completely in pregnancy.

Another herb frequently found in so-called pregnancy teas is dandelion leaf. High in calcium and vitamin A, dandelion may be used by some women to help combat swelling in pregnancy. However, dandelion leaf has diuretic properties and so should be used cautiously by pregnant women.

Pennyroyal, too, is a herb that is contraindicated at any stage of pregnancy because it triggers uterine contractions, while licorice root tea, when consumed in large amounts, could make preterm labor more likely.

While slippery elm bark tea may help to relieve nausea and heartburn by adding an additional coating to the stomach, it could be problematic. The tree’s inner bark could be safe for consumption while pregnant as long as it’s used in the same amounts as would be found in food, but its outer bark could result in miscarriage. Since it’s virtually impossible to confirm the type of bark that is in herbal teas, avoiding it entirely during pregnancy is the best idea.

Chicory root teas are also possibly unsafe to drink in large quantities when pregnant since this ingredient could cause miscarriage. Bear in mind that a lot of commercially available herbal teas have roasted chicory root as one of their ingredients, so make sure to check the packaging before drinking.

Some herbal teas are used by pregnant women to treat the common pregnancy symptom of constipation. But these may disrupt the balance of electrolytes in your body, cause the uterus to contract and cause dehydration, so they’re probably unsafe for use by pregnant women. A better solution to relieve constipation is to drink more fluids, eat more fiber, and move more regularly, or, if the condition doesn’t improve, speak to your doctor about stool softeners.

Are Any Teas Safe to Drink in Pregnancy?

In general, most caffeinated types of tea are deemed to be safe for consumption in pregnancy, so long as under 300 mg of caffeine is consumed each day. Women who have a special sensitivity to caffeine or who wish to be extra-safe may want to consume a maximum of 100 mg of caffeine each day.

There is limited research available about the safety of herbal teas and their effects in pregnancy. For this reason, most medical professionals suggest that pregnant women avoid consuming any kind of herb in amounts larger than would be found in food.

There are, however, some studies out there that suggest some herbal teas are safe for consumption in pregnancy, and could even be beneficial for pregnant women. These include:

  • Raspberry leaf tea – this kind of tea isn’t just considered to be safe, but is also thought to be beneficial in pregnancy, shortening labor and helping to prepare your uterus ready for the birth of your baby. Research has shown it could reduce the length of your labor’s second stage.
  • Peppermint tea – this type of tea is also considered to be safe and can be used for relieving stomach pain, nausea, gas, and heartburn (all common problems in pregnancy). No studies exist to support those benefits, but doctors usually believe that it could be worth trying.
  • Ginger tea – of all herbal remedies, ginger is among the most studied for use in pregnancy, and it’s believed to be mostly safe. Effective at reducing vomiting and nausea, (common problems in pregnancy, especially during the first trimester), ginger should not be consumed dried in amounts exceeding 1g per day.
  • Lemon balm tea – this tea is often used for the relief of insomnia, irritability, and anxiety, and while there are no studies to support its use for this purpose in pregnancy, it’s widely believed to be safe.
  • Roobios tea – this caffeine-free herbal tea is packed with magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and beneficial antioxidants to combat free radicals while detoxifying your body. This kind of tea is also known to help your digestion and ease acid reflux. It can also improve your body’s iron absorption and fight infections, colds, and allergies. If your immune system needs a boost, roobios tea is a good choice.
  • Rosehip tea – this tea is sometimes called an “elixir of youth” thanks to its high vitamin C content that combats swelling and illnesses. Most importantly for pregnant women, it can help to reduce the number of times you have to urinate – something that is most welcome in the later stages of pregnancy.

One thing to be aware of when considering which herbal teas to drink in pregnancy is that raspberry leaf can stimulate uterine contractions, and peppermint can stimulate your menstrual flow. You may, therefore, wish to avoid their use in your first trimester for your peace of mind.

Could Tea be Contaminated?

Another possibility that is often overlooked by pregnant women is whether their tea could be contaminated. Teas aren’t strictly regulated or tested. That means you could be drinking tea that is contaminated with heavy metals or other unwanted compounds that could be dangerous for you or your growing baby.

One study, for example, tested a range of popular off-the-shelf oolong, white, green, and black teas. The disturbing results showed that a fifth of all the samples had been contaminated with aluminum. Even more worryingly, almost three-quarters of the samples contained levels of lead that are deemed to be unsafe for pregnant women.

A different study showed that women who consumed more herbal and green teas in their first trimester had blood lead levels that were 6-14% higher than women who drank the least. Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should panic, since even these increased levels were within a range that is considered to be normal.

Since there is little regulation, it’s also possible that herbal teas may contain ingredients that aren’t listed on their packaging. This means that pregnant women could end up inadvertently consuming tea that is tainted with undesirable herbs like the ones above. This risk cannot be eliminated, but it can be minimized by only buying tea from a reputable and trustworthy brand. You should also avoid buying tea in bulk since the risk is higher of the tea leaves becoming mixed with those from adjacent bins that are contraindicated in pregnancy.

What About Decaffeinated Teas?

Decaffeinated tea is just your regular tea without the unwanted caffeine content. If you choose a decaffeinated tea brand, you’ll find the flavor remains intact but the caffeine is either reduced considerably or removed entirely. This means there’s no compromise on taste but you’ll experience no negative effects on either you or your growing baby.

These days, there are many tea brands on the market that sell decaffeinated versions. You may be wondering whether one of these could be suitable for consumption during pregnancy. The answer is, yes, in most cases, these should be absolutely fine. But, again, you should only purchase products from a trustworthy and reliable brand, and you should make sure you check the label for ingredients before consuming.

A word of warning about decaffeinated teas in pregnancy, though. If you usually consume a lot of caffeine, you may experience problems when you reduce your intake suddenly. Headaches are especially common after going cold turkey from caffeinated beverages. Therefore, it makes sense to reduce your consumption gradually so that your body has time to adapt.

Is it Possible to Decaffeinate Tea Myself?

A quick search online will turn up many articles that suggest you can decaffeinate tea yourself at home. However, before you get out your favorite tea leaves and start steeping, it’s important to read on to discover the truth.

For years, tea lovers all over the world have been experimenting with a technique to make their own decaffeinated tea in their own kitchen. There is a rumor that all that is required to decaffeinate tea is to steep the tea in boiling water for up to 40 seconds, discard the water, then refill the cup again with more boiling water for a second steeping. If you use this method, it’s been claimed that the amount of caffeine in the tea reduces by between 50 and 80%.

Of course, when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and in this case, those who think that they are decaffeinating their tea by following this procedure are wrong. The processes needed to decaffeinate tea are considerably more complex, involving the use of chemicals such as methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, or carbon dioxide – something you’re unlikely to have in your kitchen at home!

Therefore, if you want to be sure that you’re consuming decaffeinated tea, you should avoid this DIY method and buy a reliable brand of decaffeinated tea instead from your local store.

Can I Drink Green Tea During Pregnancy?

green tea

Green tea is a type of “true tea” and is a popular choice due to the many health benefits that it offers to non-pregnant women. But is it safe to consume when you’re expecting?

The simple answer is yes, within reason. You can drink moderate amounts of green tea when you’re pregnant – one or two cups per day. Yet, you’ll have to be careful to limit how much you consume because of the caffeine and epigallocatechin content.

Epigallocatechin (or EGCG) is a powerful antioxidant and active ingredient in green tea. While it is beneficial, it can impact on how your body metabolizes folate, something which is vital in pregnancy. Folate is needed to guard against fetal neural tube defects, so you need to be wary when consuming green tea in the early stages of pregnancy when your fetus is still developing.

If you’re concerned about caffeine, it’s possible to find decaffeinated green teas for sale. These offer a host of benefits including:

  • Regulation of blood pressure to guard against pre-eclampsia
  • Control of blood sugar levels to guard against gestational diabetes
  • Protection of your teeth against gingivitis and cavities thanks to its catechin content that can destroy viruses and bacteria
  • Resolution of skin problems like acne caused by pregnancy’s hormonal changes thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties
  • Alleviation of mood swings which are common in pregnancy thanks to its theanine content that has a relaxing effect
  • Boosting the immune system – green tea can stimulate the T cells in the body which are vital for immunity

Are Fruit and Spice Teas Safe for me to Drink?

Typically, herbal tea made from spices and fruits (in amounts that would normally be found in food) is considered to be safe to drink in pregnancy. You may want to try teas made from citrus fruits, apples, and berries as a way of reducing your caffeine consumption while keeping your fluid intake up.

What about Alchemilla and Flaxseed Teas?

Although some herbal teas are best avoided during pregnancy, one herbal tea which is recommended to women who are expecting is alchemilla tea. You may never have heard of this herb, but it’s an excellent choice for women of all ages, and whether or not they are pregnant.

Alchemilla has been used historically as a form of natural treatment for painful periods, cramps, aches, and irregular menstrual cycles. When it comes to moms-to-be, alchemilla helps to alleviate morning sickness, an all-too-common problem in the early weeks of pregnancy. Alchemilla also helps to calm anxiety – something that pregnant women often suffer from – and it can soothe headaches and prevent insomnia.

If you’re keen to try alchemilla tea, the best way to do it is to drink a cup or two each day for two weeks then stopping for a few days before drinking it again for another two weeks. You can repeat this cycle as often as you need to.

Another popular and highly-recommended tea for pregnant women is flaxseed tea. Flax is a wonderful natural ingredient that should be a regular part of your third-trimester diet. You should aim to eat a tablespoon of ground flax seeds every day in the last two months of pregnancy to achieve maximum benefit for your health and well-being. Ground flaxseed is good for the intestines, helps in maintaining healthy bowel movements, and helps to soften stools.

Could Drinking Tea in Pregnancy Offer Any Benefits?

Although we’ve said a lot about the downsides of drinking tea during pregnancy, there are also some benefits that can be gained by indulging in your favorite hot beverage. They include:

Keeping You Hydrated

In the early weeks of pregnancy, it can be difficult to consume anything without feeling nauseous or vomiting, then later on, when your baby is larger, your stomach will be squashed by your little one’s growing weight. Add to that the urgency of running to the bathroom more often and it’s easy to see why you may get out of the habit of drinking water during the day in pregnancy.

Dehydration, therefore, can happen all-too-easily. Even if you don’t have such severe dehydration that you require medical help, you could be living with less water than you need inside your body. Even if your dehydration is minor, it can exacerbate the complaints that are common in pregnancy like water retention, constipation, sleep problems, headaches, and fatigue.

Be careful, though. Caffeinated teas are diuretic, making you urinate more frequently, and potentially increasing dehydration if drunk in large volumes. Avoid allowing your tea to steep for extended periods as this raises the level of its caffeine content, and reduce your consumption of oolong and black teas since these contain more caffeine than other types.

Since herbal teas are mainly caffeine-free, these are better for keeping you hydrated as long as you choose wisely and ensure that no harmful ingredients are in them.

Combating Morning Sickness

For any woman who has gone through the early weeks of pregnancy, morning sickness is a grim reality. It can make it very difficult to enjoy those early months, with nausea and vomiting occurring not only in the morning but often throughout the day.

Most commonly, morning sickness occurs when your stomach is empty. This creates a problem since you need to have something in your stomach to help you feel better, but at the same time, you find it hard to eat or drink anything without feeling ill.

Many women also experience food aversions in early pregnancy, and an especially common one is coffee. Therefore, if you usually wake up and grab a coffee immediately upon getting up, you’re going to need to find an alternative that won’t just satisfy you, but that’ll also be palatable.

ginger tea

Ginger tea could be the answer. Ginger is an effective ingredient that is known to have nausea-soothing properties. It can be consumed hot or cold, so if you’re finding it hard to face a hot beverage when you’re feeling sick, you can pour the tea over ice, add some sugar or pasteurized honey, and make your own sweetened iced tea. Many pregnant women find that sweet and cold foods are easier to stomach when struggling with morning sickness, so this strategy could prove helpful.

Lemon balm tea is another useful treatment for easing morning sickness, but you should steer clear of peppermint and chamomile teas, particularly during your first 12 weeks of pregnancy, especially if you have a higher risk of miscarrying.

Nutrients And Antioxidants

Plants naturally contain antioxidants that remove waste products known as free radicals that may potentially damage the cells. These waste products cause premature aging of the skin, and could even be a cause of cancer. Bear in mind that when you’re expecting the placenta produces waste products naturally in your body, so you need to have sufficient antioxidants to remove them. If you don’t have enough, there could be a negative outcome to your pregnancy, including miscarriage.

Not only does tea contain antioxidants, but it also contains many nutrients that are vital for a healthy pregnancy including iron, magnesium, and calcium. Be aware, though, that there are studies that have shown adding milk to tea can neutralize its nutritional benefits, reducing the number of nutrients and antioxidants it contains, so add lemon or herbs to your tea rather than milk if you can. You should also use loose tea rather than tea bags whenever possible, since it tends to have higher nutrient and antioxidant levels.

Preparation For Labor

Tea can offer you a number of health benefits even if you aren’t pregnant, but there are also some teas that claim to be specifically helpful in pregnancy. Cinnamon flavored and red raspberry leaf teas are said to help tone the muscles of the uterus so it can be better prepared for labor. It may make contractions more efficient, thus shortening the length of your labor.

As we’ve already pointed out, there is little hard evidence to support this, but many women have said they have experienced results. It’s important to only drink these types of tea in the last few weeks of your pregnancy, though, since the contractions that it can cause could be harmful in the early days, potentially resulting in miscarriage or early labor.

Helping With Relaxation

Is there anything more soothing and relaxing than sitting down to drink a cup of warm tea? Lots of tea lovers enjoy the relaxing feeling that washes over them when they smell the tea’s lovely aromas and take a sip of the hot liquid. Since pregnancy is a potentially stressful time for lots of women, drinking tea could help you to destress, chill out and take some time away from the things that worry you.

How do I Choose a Safe Tea?

If you still want to drink tea during pregnancy, you need to make sure that you’re choosing a safe one. If you prefer to drink true teas, you’ll need to choose either a decaffeinated version or stick to around two cups per day.

If you want to drink herbal teas, you’ll need to ensure you’ve checked the list of ingredients carefully to make sure there are no potentially dangerous ones. You should also talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about which teas are safe before consuming any.

Moderation is also key when you’re consuming anything during your pregnancy. Just as you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) consume piles of sugary or fatty foods during those important nine months, you shouldn’t consume any kind of tea to excess. It’s best to start with only a single cup each day and observe how your body is reacting before you increase the quantity you consume each day. If you’re not entirely certain of the ingredients a tea contains, and the benefits that those ingredients offer, you should avoid drinking it until you’ve taken medical advice since it’s impossible to be sure how they’ll affect your baby or your own body.