Caffeine is one of those no-no foods to avoid when expecting, so many women have taken to drinking tea in pregnancy. Many varieties of tea have less caffeine than a traditional cup of coffee, so brewing yourself up a nice, steaming cup of tea sounds like a wonderful alternative. But just how safe is drinking tea in pregnancy? And can it harm your unborn baby?
Many holistic practitioners recommend pregnant women drink certain herbal teas to support their pregnancy. It’s believed that some herbal teas can provide a pregnant woman with important pregnancy nutrients – such as iron, calcium and magnesium. They can also be full of antioxidants, which protect the body from free radicals and reduce a woman’s cancer risk. For example, rooibos (red bush) tea is an herbal tea that is caffeine-free and high in antioxidants and minerals.
The benefits of drinking herbal tea in pregnancy haven’t been well studied; so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages that you use caution if you decide to drink these pregnancy teas.
Why Drink Herbal Tea in Pregnancy?
Although the FDA urges caution when it comes to herbs, holistic practitioners still encourage their pregnant clients to enjoy a cup or two of herbal tea. The major benefits of drinking tea when pregnant include:
1.Hydration. — Drinking herbal tea is often a good way to hydrate your body, especially if you don’t like the taste of regular water. Hydration is key to overall good pregnancy health. Experts recommend pregnant women drink eight glasses of water each day. Water carries nutrients to your developing baby, and it may help you have less swollen feet and ankles. Plus, in the final trimester, drinking water can lower your risk of preterm labor. Being dehydrated can sometimes trigger contractions, which may heighten your chance of going into labor too early.
2.Good Source of Nutrients. — There are certain herbal teas, like nettle leaf (stinging nettle), that are generally considered safe (by most, but not all healthcare practitioners). Nettle leaf is an ingredient in many pregnancy teas (that you find at your local supermarket), and it’s often recommended by herbalists and midwives as a good source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. When choosing nettle leaf tea, make sure the tea you’re buying is using dried leaves and not the root. The tea label should say, “nettle leaf.” Because this herbal tea can stimulate your uterus and cause miscarriage, you shouldn’t drink it in the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s generally safer in the late second and third trimesters. (You may want to avoid it all together due to the fact that it can stimulate your uterus.)
3.Reduce Morning Sickness. — Pregnant women who are suffering from morning sickness may find that drinking certain herbal teas in pregnancy helps reduce their morning sickness symptoms. For example, drinking ginger tea and mint tea may help alleviate your nausea and prevent vomiting. Peppermint tea may also help you feel less queasy in the first trimester.
4.Helps You Sleep. — Sleeping when you’re pregnant can be a challenge, especially in the later months. Some holistic practitioners suggest that you can drink chamomile tea in pregnancy to help you sleep better at night. Chamomile is calming and soothing, and it may just be the ticket to lull you to sleep. You may want to avoid drinking chamomile tea in the first trimester of pregnancy, because it can also act as a uterine stimulant. It’s probably safest in the third trimester.
5.Promote More Effective Contractions During Labor. — Raspberry leaf tea is one of the herbal teas that herbalists and holistic midwives recommend to help you in labor. Raspberry leaf is believed to tone your uterine muscle, which may help you have stronger contractions during labor. You probably don’t want to drink it earlier in pregnancy, because of the risk of contractions. Drinking this tea in early labor is probably the safest.
Are Herbal Teas Safe in Pregnancy?
There is not enough research on the safety of using herbs in pregnancy to give you a conclusive answer. Most commercial herbal teas – like the ones you would find in the grocery store – are believed to be safe in pregnant women when consumed in small or moderate amounts. When taken in large amounts, some of the herbs in teas can stimulate your uterus and lead to miscarriage.
Because herbs are drugs, and can be as potent as medications, pregnant women should err on the side of caution when drinking herbal teas. Very few herbs have been studied for safety in pregnant women.
If you’re a tea lover, you may want to consider drinking the decaffeinated version of non-herbal tea. This includes black tea (English breakfast, Orange Pekoe, and Early Grey) green tea, and oolong tea. Because regular tea (non-herbal) can naturally contain caffeine, you’ll want to choose decaffeinated versions of these teas. (Studies have linked large amounts of caffeine to causing miscarriage and other pregnancy complications.)
What Teas to Avoid in Pregnancy?
If you want to drink herbal tea in pregnancy, there is a variety that you need to avoid due to the potential harm to your unborn child. This includes any detoxification or cleaning teas, herbal laxatives (because they can increase your dehydration risk due to their side effects of frequent urination and sometimes diarrhea), and certain herbs. According to the Natural Medicines Database, you’ll want to stay away from the following herbs in your pregnancy tea:
- Black Cohosh
- Blue Cohosh
- Passion Flower
- Arbor vitae
- Dong Quai
- Saw Palmetto
- Pay D’ Arco
- Beth (Birth Root)
- Cascara sagrada
- Roman Chamomile
- Cotton root bark
- Evening primrose
- Kava Kava
- Greater celandine
- Squaw wine
- Meadow saffron
Keep in mind that herbs in pregnancy are a controversial topic. There are some medical doctors who advise against all herbs, and there are midwives who recommend them. Please always talk to your healthcare provider before you drink any herbal tea in pregnancy.
Helpful Tips for Drinking Pregnancy Tea
Be careful when consuming pregnancy teas that you buy at the supermarket. Although the companies of these “pregnancy teas” market their products as “supporting a healthy pregnancy,” there have been no clinical studies that support these claims. The safety of the herbs in these pregnancy teas is also not regulated. Please always discuss your decision to drink pregnancy tea with your doctor or healthcare provider.
If you enjoy drinking tea in pregnancy, you should make your own. Brew a nice pot of decaffeinated black or green tea, and add orange slices, lemon rinds, honey, cinnamon, or ginger slices to the boiled water. Enjoy!