Your Guide to Drinking Tea During Pregnancy

What teas are safe to drink when you're pregnant? From green to black, peppermint to chamomile, here's what to steep when you're expecting.

The ritual of making and drinking tea has been practiced for thousands of years, and with good reason. Tea contains polyphenols that protect your heart, antioxidants that may lower your risk of cancer, and nutrients that support your immune system.

When you're expecting, the benefits can get even better: A comforting cup may help ease morning sickness or help you through labor. But while many teas are safe during pregnancy, some are potentially dangerous and should be avoided. Read on to find your best bets when it comes to drinking tea while pregnant.

An image of a pregnant woman with a mug.
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The Best Teas for Pregnancy

If you're looking for a pregnancy-safe tea, consider picking something herbal. "Herbal teas can help hydrate the body when women don't want to drink plain water," says Amelia Hirota, D.Ac., an herbalist, acupuncturist, and founder of the Phoenix Fertility Center in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Some herbal teas also provide nutrients needed during pregnancy, including calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Rooibos tea is a top pick for pregnant people; it's full of antioxidants and is naturally free from caffeine. Ginger and peppermint tea are commonly used to alleviate morning sickness, while chamomile may help with insomnia. Red raspberry leaf is said to shorten labor by promoting more efficient contractions. "Many midwives believe that drinking it during pregnancy tones the uterine muscle," explains Hirota.

All of these teas are considered safe in moderation, but you should consult your health care provider before drinking them. Herbal teas are not scrutinized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and there are few studies on the effects of consuming them while pregnant.

Even herbal teas may pose a risk to pregnant people. For instance, evidence suggests that large amounts of peppermint tea can stimulate menstruation, and excessive chamomile tea intake has been linked to miscarriage; red raspberry leaf tea could also potentially promote uterine contractions. Many experts suggest skipping these in the first trimester and sticking to blends that are low-risk.

Herbal Teas to Avoid During Pregnancy

Some herbal teas are unsafe or ill-advised when you're expecting, among them diet, cleansing, and detox teas, and those with herbs such as black cohosh, blue cohosh, and dong quai. Always do your research, and ask a health care provider if you're concerned about the safety of certain ingredients during your pregnancy.

Pregnant people should particularly avoid herbal laxative teas because they can promote diuresis (increased urination) and diarrhea, both of which can cause dehydration, says Laurie Green, M.D., an OB-GYN in San Francisco.

"In high doses, some naturally occurring laxative substances, such as cascara sagrada or senna, can cause changes in electrolytes," she notes. Electrolytes are essential to the continued health of your body and must be level for your cells and organs to function normally. Avoid these tea varieties until after you deliver and finish breastfeeding (and even then, use caution).

No matter what kind of tea you drink, moderation is important during pregnancy (and in life!). In one key study, it was suggested that high consumption of tea (defined as more than three cups per day) may interfere with the absorption of folate acid, the essential nutrient for preventing neural tube defects like spina bifida.

"If you limit your intake to two to three cups per day, there's no evidence of any harm coming from that," says David Elmer, M.D., a consultant gynecologist at Nantucket Cottage Hospital in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

What About Black Tea, Green Tea, and Oolong Tea?

Experts advise caution with black, green, and oolong teas during pregnancy. Unlike herbal teas, which contain about 0.4 milligrams of caffeine per cup, these non-herbal teas can have up to 50 milligrams per cup according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sip four or five cups a day, and you've gotten about 200 milligrams of caffeine.

In a 2008 study conducted by Kaiser Permanente's Northern California Division of Research, it was found that pregnant women who drank more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day (the amount in one to two cups of coffee) doubled their risk for miscarriage compared to those who didn't consume caffeine. Another study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that even minor caffeine consumption during pregnancy diminished newborns' size and mass.

Some research maintains that a low level of caffeine is safe for those who are expecting. Other research suggests that there is no safe level. In the absence of a definitive answer, most experts recommend limiting intake to less than 200 milligrams a day. "Caffeine in any form is too stimulating during pregnancy," affirms Hirota. "It also increases the load on the liver, which is already busy processing pregnancy hormones."

Just can't do without your favorite cup of tea? You still have a few options when it comes to reducing the caffeine content. First, you can try a decaffeinated version, though it will still contain small amounts of caffeine. You can also reduce the caffeine content with your brewing method.

Caffeine is the first substance released into the water during steeping (this occurs within the first 25 seconds). To reduce the amount of caffeine in your cup, steep the leaves or bag for 30 seconds, dump the water, then refill your cup with hot water and steep again. Most of the caffeine will be removed.

Last, but not least, you can also try cold-brewed tea, which contains less caffeine in a large serving than its hot counterpart.

Updated by Lisa Milbrand
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