Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world. Black, white, and green, there are all types of teas. With so many different kinds of teas, it is difficult to decide which one to choose from so many choices. Tea is one drink that many women continue to have during their pregnancy as well. While some women drink to meet the increased need for fluids during pregnancy, others drink tea to destress. Some women, though, like to use tea for numerous pregnancy-related symptoms or even as a tonic to prepare for delivery in their last weeks of pregnancy. But which teas are safe to have in pregnancy? Read on to find out which herbal teas you can drink safely during pregnancy.
Is Tea Safe to Drink During Pregnancy?
There are many types of teas – black, white, green, and many others, that are considered to be safe to drink during pregnancy. Many women drink tea to help destress during pregnancy, while others try to meet their requirement for increased fluids during pregnancy by sipping on some herbal teas. There are also many women who use tea as a natural remedy. Tea is used as a natural remedy in some parts of the world for managing numerous pregnancy-related symptoms or even as a tonic to help have a smooth last couple of weeks of pregnancy and childbirth.(1, 2, 3)
Most women think that it is safe to drink tea during pregnancy because it is natural. However, this is not true for all teas. The reality is that women can no doubt benefit from drinking certain types of teas, there are some that should be completely avoided during their pregnancy. Here are some teas that you should avoid and some that are safe to consume during pregnancy.
Restricting the Intake of Certain Teas
While teas are a popular beverage among pregnant women, it is essential to restrict the intake of certain teas that contain caffeine in them. Oolong, chai, matcha, green, white, and black teas are all sourced from the plant Camellia sinensis. The leaves of this plant are used to produce these teas, and they contain caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that should ideally be restricted during pregnancy.(4)
- Black Tea: 47 to 53 mg
- Chai: 47 to 53 mg
- Green Tea: 29 to 49 mg
- Matcha: 60 to 80 mg
- Oolong Tea: 38 to 58 mg
- White Tea: 25 to 50 mg
But why is it recommended to limit your intake of caffeine during pregnancy? Well, this is because caffeine can quite easily cross the placenta to reach the baby. And the baby’s life, which is still immature, is not able to easily break down the caffeine. Due to this, infants are more likely to experience adverse effects from high amounts of caffeine, which would typically be considered safe for adults.(9)
Research has shown that babies who are exposed to high amounts of caffeine during pregnancy have a greater risk of being born with congenital disabilities, low birth weight, or even born preterm. Having a high intake of caffeine in pregnancy also increases the risk of having a stillbirth or miscarriage. These risks were found to be minimal when during pregnancy, women restricted their intake of caffeine to a maximum of only 300 mg per day.(10, 11)
However, at the same time, genetics also has a role to play in this, as some women are more sensitive to the adverse effects of caffeine. For example, studies have shown that a small percentage of women have a 2.4 times greater risk of miscarriage if they consume even 100 to 300 mg of caffeine daily during their pregnancy.(11)
Even though caffeinated teas do not contain as much caffeine as coffee does, and they are also considered safe for drinking during pregnancy, it is still a good idea to limit your consumption of teas so that you don’t consume too much of caffeine.(12)
Adverse Effects of Herbal Tea in Pregnancy
Herbal teas are usually considered to be safe as they are made from flowers, spices, dried fruits, and herbs. They do not contain any caffeine. Nevertheless, just because they don’t contain any caffeine does not mean that they cannot have some side effects. Herbal teas may include certain other types of compounds that are known to be unsafe for women during pregnancy and may cause some side effects, including the following:
Preterm Labor or Miscarriage
Herbal teas that contain the following ingredients increase the risk of having congenital disabilities:(13)
Herbal teas that stimulate or increase the risk of having menstrual bleeding include:(16)
- Frankincense (if consumed in large amounts)
Other Adverse Effects
In some rare cases, eucalyptus tea may also cause nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. A case study showed that regularly drinking chamomile tea during pregnancy can cause disruption to the blood flow to the baby’s heart. It may cause poor blood flow to the heart, which puts the baby at risk.(12)
Some herbal teas may even contain some types of compounds that may interact with your medications. This is why pregnant women must let their doctors know about any herbal teas they are having or planning to take during their pregnancy.
It is also essential to consider that there is a limited amount of evidence on the safety of herbal teas. This is why a lack of evidence and research on adverse effects should not be considered as proof that the tea is safe to consume during pregnancy. This is why until more research is done and evidence is in the clear, it is best to be cautious during pregnancy and limit your consumption of herbal teas, especially those teas that have not yet been found to be 100 percent safe to consume during pregnancy.(17)
Contamination of Herbals Teas Due to Lack of Regulation
Most herbal teas are not regulated too strictly or even tested properly. This means that pregnant women might end up drinking teas that are contaminated with certain toxic compounds, including heavy metals. One study carried out on women who had the highest intake of herbal and green teas during the first three months of pregnancy found that these women had 6 to 14 percent higher levels of lead in their blood as compared to those women who drank the minimum amount of these teas.(18, 19)
One study carried out testing on some of the commonly available off-the-shelf white, green, oolong, and black teas. The study found that almost 20 percent of all the samples were contaminated and contained aluminum. At the same time, 73 percent of these samples also had lead levels far above the levels that are considered to be safe during pregnancy.(20)
Since there is a lack of regulation, there is also the risk that herbal teas contain some ingredients that are not listed on the food label. This further increases the risk that you may end up consuming tea that is contaminated with toxic or unwanted herbs or ingredients while pregnant, such as the risky ones described above.
While it is impossible to completely eliminate this risk, but what you can do is minimize your consumption of tea and also purchase teas that are from reputable brands. It is also best to avoid buying herbal teas in bulk as there is a greater risk of getting mixed with tea leaves that are not safe to have during pregnancy from nearby shelves.
Which Herbal Teas are Safe During Pregnancy?
Most types of caffeinated teas are safe to drink during your pregnancy, but you should limit your intake to 300 mg per day. If you are especially sensitive to caffeine, you should limit your intake to a maximum of 100 mg of caffeine in a day.
When you look at herbal teas, as mentioned above, there is not a lot of evidence available about the effects they have if consumed during pregnancy. Due to this, most medical experts recommend that pregnant women should avoid consuming any type of herbs in amounts that you would find in foods. At the same time, herbal teas do contain certain ingredients that are known to be safe if consumed during pregnancy. These include:
- Peppermint: Peppermint tea is considered to be safe for consumption during pregnancy, and it even has certain benefits like relieving nausea, gas, stomach pain, and heartburn. However, there are no studies that confirm or support these claims.(21)
- Ginger: Ginger tea can help reduce nausea and vomiting. Ginger is a widely studied herbal remedy, and it is considered to be safe when taken during pregnancy. Studies have shown that it helps in nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, but only when it is consumed in a dried form, and you should not consume more than one gram of ginger per day.(22)
- Raspberry Leaf: Raspberry leaf tea is known to be safe, and many women have it to shorten labor and also help the uterus get ready for childbirth. Studies have shown that regular use of raspberry leaf tea in the third trimester can reduce the length of the second stage of labor, but only by about ten minutes.(23) However, it is essential to know that even though it is considered safe, raspberry leaf can sometimes cause uterine contractions. Due to this, there is some controversy about whether this tea is safe to use in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Since peppermint tea may also promote menstrual flow, it is better to avoid having peppermint and raspberry leaf teas in the first trimester of your pregnancy.(24)
While all types of teas are popular beverages around the world for pregnant women, it is essential to note that not all teas are considered to be safe during pregnancy.
Caffeinated teas like chai, matcha, oolong, black, white, and green teas are usually known to be safe, but you should restrict their intake as they contain caffeine. You do not want to be consuming excessive amounts of caffeine during your pregnancy.
At the same time, it is better to avoid most herbal teas. Peppermint, raspberry leaf, lemon balm, and ginger teas are the only ones that have been researched and considered to be somewhat safe during pregnancy. However, it is best to avoid peppermint and raspberry leaf teas in the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
- Illamola, S.M., Amaeze, O.U., Krepkova, L.V., Birnbaum, A.K., Karanam, A., Job, K.M., Bortnikova, V.V., Sherwin, C.M. and Enioutina, E.Y., 2020. Use of herbal medicine by pregnant women: What physicians need to know. Frontiers in pharmacology, 10, p.1483.
- Sharma, V.K., Bhattacharya, A., Kumar, A. and Sharma, H.K., 2007. Health benefits of tea consumption. Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 6(3), pp.785-792.
- Serafini, M., Del Rio, D., Yao, D.N., Bettuzzi, S. and Peluso, I., 2012. Health benefits of tea.
- 4.Gramza-Michałowska, A., 2014. Caffeine in tea camellia sinensis—content, absorption, benefits and risks of consumption. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 18(2), pp.143-149.
- Anon, Fooddata Central Search Results. FoodData Central. Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173227/nutrients [Accessed September 26, 2022].
- Anon, Fooddata Central Search Results. FoodData Central. Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174120/nutrients [Accessed September 26, 2022].
- Pastoriza, S., Mesías, M., Cabrera, C. and Rufián-Henares, J.A., 2017. Healthy properties of green and white teas: an update. Food & function, 8(8), pp.2650-2662.
- Boros, K., Jedlinszki, N. and Csupor, D., 2016. Theanine and caffeine content of infusions prepared from commercial tea samples. Pharmacognosy magazine, 12(45), p.75.
- Qian, J., Chen, Q., Ward, S.M., Duan, E. and Zhang, Y., 2020. Impacts of caffeine during pregnancy. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 31(3), pp.218-227.
- Rhee, J., Kim, R., Kim, Y., Tam, M., Lai, Y., Keum, N. and Oldenburg, C.E., 2015. Maternal caffeine consumption during pregnancy and risk of low birth weight: a dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies. PloS one, 10(7), p.e0132334.
- Wikoff, D., Welsh, B.T., Henderson, R., Brorby, G.P., Britt, J., Myers, E., Goldberger, J., Lieberman, H.R., O’Brien, C., Peck, J. and Tenenbein, M., 2017. Systematic review of the potential adverse effects of caffeine consumption in healthy adults, pregnant women, adolescents, and children. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 109, pp.585-648.
- Ahmed, M., Hwang, J.H., Choi, S. and Han, D., 2017. Safety classification of herbal medicines used among pregnant women in Asian countries: a systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 17(1), pp.1-11.
- Samavati, R., Ducza, E., Hajagos-Tóth, J. and Gaspar, R., 2017. Herbal laxatives and antiemetics in pregnancy. Reproductive toxicology, 72, pp.153-158.
- Gholami, F., Samani, L.N., Kashanian, M., Naseri, M., Hosseini, A.F. and Nejad, S.A.H., 2016. Onset of labor in post-term pregnancy by chamomile. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 18(11).
- John, L.J. and Shantakumari, N., 2015. Herbal medicines use during pregnancy: a review from the Middle East. Oman medical journal, 30(4), p.229.
- Kennedy, D.A., Lupattelli, A., Koren, G. and Nordeng, H., 2016. Safety classification of herbal medicines used in pregnancy in a multinational study. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 16(1), pp.1-9.
- Balbontín, Y.M., Stewart, D., Shetty, A., Fitton, C.A. and McLay, J.S., 2019. Herbal medicinal product use during pregnancy and the postnatal period: a systematic review. Obstetrics and gynecology, 133(5), p.920.
- Habs, M., Binder, K., Krauss, S., Müller, K., Ernst, B., Valentini, L. and Koller, M., 2017. A balanced risk–benefit analysis to determine human risks associated with pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA)—The case of tea and herbal infusions. Nutrients, 9(7), p.717.
- Colapinto, C.K., Arbuckle, T.E., Dubois, L. and Fraser, W., 2016. Is there a relationship between tea intake and maternal whole blood heavy metal concentrations?. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 26(5), pp.503-509.
- Schwalfenberg, G., Genuis, S.J. and Rodushkin, I., 2013. The benefits and risks of consuming brewed tea: beware of toxic element contamination. Journal of toxicology, 2013.
- McKay, D.L. and Blumberg, J.B., 2006. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 20(8), pp.619-633.
- Tiran, D., 2012. Ginger to reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy: evidence of effectiveness is not the same as proof of safety. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 18(1), pp.22-25.
- Dante, G., Pedrielli, G., Annessi, E. and Facchinetti, F., 2013. Herb remedies during pregnancy: a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 26(3), pp.306-312.
- Holst, L., Wright, D., Haavik, S. and Nordeng, H., 2011. Safety and efficacy of herbal remedies in obstetrics—review and clinical implications. Midwifery, 27(1), pp.80-86.