For over 4,000 years, Asians have sipped and enjoyed green tea as a warming beverage and a form of traditional medicine. Green tea has its origins in China, but it’s beloved in all the Asian countries – including Vietnam, China, Thailand, Japan, and Taiwan. In traditional medicine, green tea is believed to help with digestion, regulate blood sugar, and control bleeding.
Because of the medicinal benefits of green tea, it has become popular in the United States and North America. Despite its health benefits, green tea does contain caffeine – which pregnant women are urged to drink in moderation.
Many doctors and healthcare providers will give pregnant women the OK to drink green tea in pregnancy, but in moderation. Three to four cups of green tea is considered a sensible amount. If you’re pregnant, you should be aware that too much green tea does have its downsides, as well.
Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea is famous for its various health benefits. For one, it’s full of antioxidants and has anti-cancer fighting properties. It’s considered more potent than black tea when it comes to its antioxidant properties. For this reason, green tea consumption may help reduce the risk of cancer. Green tea also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and minerals (like zinc, manganese, and chromium), as well as phytochemicals.
Research studies have suggested that green tea can help reduce a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease (like heart attacks and strokes), dental cavities, kidney stones, and cancer. In addition, human studies have suggested that green tea may improve bone density, which means that it may help prevent osteoporosis. Studies have also suggested that green tea may improve cognitive function.
Despite all of these benefits, green tea and pregnancy remain a controversial topic. Mainly, the reason for this is due to the caffeine content in green tea.
Before you will decide whether you want to drink green tea while pregnant, you should weigh the pros and cons of green tea in pregnancy.
The Benefits of Green Tea in Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, it’s generally considered safe to drink green tea in moderation.
Green tea is rich in antioxidants – which are chemical compounds that help prevent free radicals from damaging the cells in our body. Research has suggested that green tea can help protect against diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
For pregnant women, high blood pressure (hypertension) can become a serious pregnancy complication called preeclampsia, which can put the pregnancy in danger. For this reason, the ability of green tea to regulate high blood pressure makes it beneficial for pregnant women.
As an antioxidant, green tea can help speed up your metabolism rate and could possibly help stabilize your mood swings. In addition, scientific studies have suggested that the ingredients in green tea can increase regulatory T cells in your body, which may boost your immune system. Since your immune system in pregnancy is suppressed, drinking green tea can help you fight off more illnesses.
Green tea is also known for its digestion properties, so it may help reduce indigestion and stomach upsets, which are common in pregnancy.
There are a number of studies that suggest that drinking green tea can also improve your oral health and your bone strength. Good oral health is important in pregnancy, since pregnant women can be plagued with gingivitis due to their changing hormonal levels.
The Potential Risks of Green Tea in Pregnancy
Despite all the benefits of green tea, this drink remains controversial. Some experts warn expectant mothers from drinking green tea. One of the major disadvantages of green tea is the fact that it is a caffeinated drink.
Although green tea does not have as much caffeine in a single cup than a traditional cup of Java, it’s important that pregnant women pay attention to their caffeine intake every day.
- As a rule of thumb, a 6-ounce cup of green tea has 20 milligrams of caffeine.
- The same sized cup of black coffee (brewed) has 120 milligrams of caffeine.
All pregnant women are advised to reduce their caffeine intake during pregnancy. Because it’s a diuretic, caffeine can cause the body to release more water than usual. This means you’ll be urinating more than you already are (and we all know that frequent urination is a common pregnancy symptom). If you aren’t drinking enough water, too much caffeine can lead to dehydration.
Caffeine is also a substance that crosses the placenta, and there are studies that suggest that it may decrease blood flow to the developing baby. High levels of caffeine consumption have been linked to miscarriage, stillbirth, and low birth weight babies.
Aside from its caffeine content, green tea may also interfere with how a pregnant woman’s body metabolizes folic acid (or folate). This is because of the presence of epigallocathechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea. In theory, drinking too much green tea may reduce the folate levels in your body. Lack of enough folic acid in pregnancy has been linked to increasing neural tube defects, like Spina Bifida.
For women who want to know the basics on how to get pregnant, you may want to reduce your green tea intake to boost your chances of conception. Folic acid can be helpful in boosting your fertility. Plus, too much caffeine may also hinder your chances of having a baby.
Green Tea in Moderation is OK
It is fine to drink green tea in moderation. Two to three cups of green tea a day is considered as the safe amount for pregnant women. Because of the potential risk of green tea affecting your folate levels, you should avoid drinking green tea in the first trimester. It should be safe in the second and third trimesters in moderation, of course.
If you love green tea, make sure you eat plenty of folate-rich foods – like leafy green vegetables. All pregnant women should take a daily supplement of folic acid, or a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400-600 micrograms of folic acid.
Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about green tea and your pregnancy.
Other Safe Herbal Teas in Pregnancy
Herbal teas are caffeine-free, so they may be an alternative to green tea and caffeinated drinks. The safety of herbal teas in pregnancy is heavily debated, mostly because the safety of many herbs has not been tested in pregnancy. Scientists simply don’t know their effects on a developing baby.
There are a handful of herbal teas that are sometimes labeled as “pregnancy teas,” which may have benefits for pregnant women. Midwives who work with herbs on a regular basis believe that certain herbs can help prevent complications – such as preterm labor, preeclampsia, a lengthy labor, and postpartum hemorrhage.
Herbal teas that are considered relatively safe in pregnancy include red raspberry leaf, peppermint leaf, and lemon balm.
- Red Raspberry Leaf is used in many of the commercial “pregnancy teas.” Red raspberry leaf is rich in iron, so it’s known to help strengthen the uterus, decrease morning sickness, and help reduce labor pains. For breastfeeding mothers, it may help increase your breast milk production. However, red raspberry leaf should only be used after the first trimester.
- Peppermint Leaf can help reduce nausea and morning sickness, as well as gas and flatulence.
- Lemon Balm is known for its calming effects, so it may help you sleep better at night. It may also relieve any anxiety or irritability you might feel. It’s a good nighttime tea that will relax and de-stress you.
Before drinking any green teas or herbal teas, it’s probably a good idea to consult your midwife or doctor to get their advice and input.
Special thanks to guest writer, Amit Bravo for this article.