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Tea in Pregnancy - Safe or Not?

Tea in Pregnancy – Safe or Not?

| On 12, Dec 2013

 

Whether you’re an expecting mom or you know someone who’s pregnant, you’re aware that some foods and beverages are considered unsafe during pregnancy, and coffee is one of these beverages, due to its high content of caffeine. But how about tea? It’s not a novelty that tea also provides caffeine, in higher or lower amounts, depending on the type you choose. So is tea good or bad during pregnancy?

Tea safe or unsafe in pregnancyI know women who continued to drink this beverage during the nine months without accusing any unpleasant symptom, or putting their baby’s health at risk, as their health care provider approved the beverage. However, not all teas are created equal, and some of them are almost as strong as coffee.

Thus, if the general guidelines say one should limit the amount of caffeine to 200 mg per day during pregnancy, this applies to both coffee and tea. For coffee, two 8-ounce cups provide this amount of caffeine, and given that the substance can cross the placenta and affect the baby’s heart rate, it’s definitely not recommended to exceed this amount. But what about tea?

Most pregnant women carefully avoid coffee, yet they forget that the beverage obtained from the Camellia sinensis plant also contains caffeine. So let’s see which are the guidelines for tea and pregnancy, and how much of this beverage can be consumed during the nine months, without putting the baby at risk.

How much caffeine does tea contain?

If you were curious to check the labels of your favorite tea assortments, you probably saw lots of herbal ingredients there, and all of them seemed harmless. Still, certain types of tea contain compounds that are considered potentially dangerous for pregnant women.

On average, tea leaves contain 3% caffeine by weight, but the percent can range from 1.4% to 4.5%, and this is a significant aspect to consider, as the same tea can provide different amounts of caffeine depending on the producer, as well as on the water’s temperature and steeping time. For example, tea that is steeped in hot water for a longer interval is stronger and released more caffeine. Also, tea made of smaller leaves releases more caffeine than the beverage obtained from larger leaves.

As a general guideline, an 8-ounce cup of brewed tea provides around 47 mg of caffeine, but let’s take a look at the table below for a better understanding.

 

Beverage

Caffeine content per 8-ounce cup

White tea

Ranges from 6 mg to 55 mg, 25-30 mg on average

Green tea

Ranges from 8 mg to 70 mg, 35 mg on average

Oolong tea

Ranges from 12 mg to 75 mg, 50 mg on average

Black tea

Ranges from 23 mg to 110 mg, 60-90 mg on average

Pu-erh tea

37 mg on average

Rooibos tea

0 mg

Decaffeinated non-herbal teas

0.4 mg on average

Tisane (herbal tea)

0 mg

 

To identify the amount of caffeine in your favorite tea, check the label, as it should provide this piece of information. Once you know how much caffeine a cup of tea contains, it’s a lot easier to decide whether it’s healthy or not during pregnancy.

For example, if your favorite assortment only provides 20 mg of caffeine, there’s no reason to avoid drinking tea during the nine months, assuming it doesn’t contain other potentially harmful ingredients. And we’ll discuss these immediately, but if you want to make sure your baby health won’t be threatened in any way, check with your health care provider after verifying the amount of caffeine in your favorite beverage.

Unsafe teas during pregnancy

If you want to make sure your health and your baby’s development won’t be affected, it’s better to restrict the consumption of teas that are particularly high in caffeine. This list includes black tea, oolong tea and green tea, with their varieties. Earl grey, Darjeeling or Hong mao should also be avoided unless approved by your health care provider.

Tea assortments containing St. John’s Wort, ginseng, ephedra, yarrow or licorice root should be restricted. Consumption of chai tea should be avoided, and chamomile tea, despite its general health benefits, should also be restricted during pregnancy if you have a history of hay fever. Otherwise, this tea is generally safe.

Is tea safe in pregnant women or notOther herbs that lack sufficient scientific arguments in order to be allowed during pregnancy include lime blossom, comfrey, rose hip, anise and catnip. Rose hip tea for example is a great immunity enhancer and a good source of vitamin C, but there isn’t sufficient reliable information available, regarding its potential side-effects in pregnant women, so it’s better to avoid it.

Yellow dock and alfalfa tea are possibly unsafe, so despite their health benefits for non-pregnant women (high amounts of vitamin E, D, A and K, positive effects in preventing anemia and postpartum hemorrhage), they still need some strong scientific arguments to support their safety during the gestation period. Hibiscus, rosemary, mistletoe and sage tea should be consumed in limited amounts if approved by your health care provider.

A tip for reducing the amount of caffeine in your tea: generally, nearly 80% of the caffeine in tea leaves is extracted within the first 30 seconds of steeping, but you can reduce the final amount of this ingredient by following this method. First, steep the tea in hot water for 45 seconds, then discard the liquid and add fresh water to the leaves, brewing for the typical amount of time that’s recommended for your tea.

Safe teas and their benefits during pregnancy

As long as you stick with teas on the safe list, you shouldn’t experience any unpleasant symptom. On the contrary, these teas provide several health benefits, so it’s actually indicated to add them to your regular pregnancy menu, as both you and your baby can experience positive effects.

Ginger tea for example relieves stomach issues, eases nausea and morning sickness and ensures a healthier digestion. Raspberry leaf tea provides high amounts of magnesium and calcium, preventing post-partum hemorrhage and preparing the uterus for labor. It’s generally considered safe for pregnant women, although some health care providers only recommend using it after the first trimester.

Peppermint tea relaxes the stomach and relieves nausea and flatulence, being considered safe and good during pregnancy. Dandelion leaf tea is rich in vitamin A, iron and calcium, prevents excessive water retention, keeps the liver healthy and it’s usually considered safe. Lemon balm tea is recommended to pregnant women thanks to its calming effects and ability to relieve anxiety and irritability.

Nettle tea is typically considered a health enhancer, as it provides high amounts of calcium, vitamin A, K, C, iron and potassium. It’s widely used in “pregnancy teas”, but the Natural Medicines Database rates this as likely unsafe during pregnancy, as its health effects depend on the part of the plant that is used for preparing the tea. Overall nettle tea is a good pregnancy tonic, BUT make sure to check with your health care provider and to carefully read the label before consuming it.

Roiboos tea safe in pregnancyRooibos tea is perhaps the best for pregnant women, containing lots of calcium and magnesium and high amounts of antioxidants. It’s completely caffeine free and helps with digestion, prevents acid reflux, soothes the body’s reactions to allergens and prevents constipation.

Also, rooibos has beneficial effects relating to depression, the oscillating blood sugar levels during pregnancy, to skin problems, vomiting, heartburn and liver’s function. Still, make sure to always check labels, as some tea blends containing rooibos also incorporate not so safe ingredients.

In general, the herbs considered safe as foods during pregnancy are also allowed for tea preparation, but it’s better to check for any contraindication on the label, even when purchasing a tea that’s otherwise considered safe. No FDA regulation specifically addresses herbal teas, hence the health concerns regarding some of these teas.

As a conclusion, tea may or may not be safe during pregnancy, depending on the type you choose and on how you prepare it. But as long as you stick with the safe teas, this beverage provides important health benefits, as it’s high in polyphenols that protect the heart, in antioxidants that enhance immunity and lower the risk of inflammations, and loaded with vitamins and minerals that ensure and overall healthier body.

Teas can relieve morning sickness, abdominal cramps, swelling of legs due to excessive water retention, and even back pain and migraines that often accompany pregnancy. Make sure to check with your health care provider and get his or her approval to enjoy your favorite beverage, then go ahead and brew a flavorful cup of hot tea, for you and your coming baby.