Whilst most of us are aware that caffeine should be limited in pregnancy, there are actually several areas where you need to be careful with tea consumption when you’re expecting.
Bethan from Hot Tea Mama says: “Even though I had worked for over 13 years as a tea buyer and blender, it wasn’t until I became pregnant myself, that I realised how easy it is to drink teas that are potentially dangerous, while trying to stick within a caffeine limited diet. So I want to share some of my top tea tips, that can help support your body through pregnancy.”
Whilst you should limit your caffeine intake when pregnant, as very high consumption has been linked to miscarriage in studies, it is important to note that you don’t need to entirely cut it out of your diet.
The NHS guideline is to have no more than 200mg per day. At this level, you can support yourself if you feel tired, but not cause any risk. But what does 200mg look like?
- A can of coke or similar soft drink has c. 40mg of caffeine
- A cup of black tea has c. 75mg
- A cup of green tea has c. 50mg
- A cup of white tea has c. 90mg
- A bar of plain chocolate has c. 25mg
- A cup of instant coffee has c. 100mg
- A mug of filter coffee has c. 140mg
- Energy drinks: a 250ml can has c. 80mg.
So if you have a cup of coffee, it’s best not to have a caffeinated tea too! Or you can swap to instant coffee if you want to enjoy both! Tommy’s The Baby Charity have a great caffeine calculator which covers most key drinks and foods with caffeine in, so you can refer to this to check if you’re concerned.
It’s important not to drink any teas with liquorice in them if you are at risk of preeclampsia or suffer from high blood pressure. Liquorice makes your blood pressure rise, but is a very common ingredient found in many fruit and herbal teas. It makes them sweet, but should be avoided. Have a quick look at the ingredient lists on the back of herbal teas in your cupboard, liquorice should be in bold text, with an additional statement saying: ‘warning, may lead to hypertension’.
If you suffer with low iron levels, you should avoid drinking traditional black/builders tea around mealtimes. One of the catechins found in black tea prevents your body absorbing non-haem iron – the iron found in green leafy vegetables. As many women suffer from low iron levels while pregnant, it’s best to swap to fruit or herbal teas (decaf black teas still contain this catechin) and a small glass of orange juice. Vitamin C can help the absorption of this type of iron and in moderation is fantastic to have with meals.
TOTAL TEA DRINKING AMOUNT
The NHS guidance is to drink no more than 4 cups of any one fruit or herbal tea. This is simply as there is very limited evidence about the effects of drinking a large quantity of any one herbal ingredient while pregnant. It is sensible therefore to limit your total consumption of any one tea – even peppermint or chamomile, just in case.
How tea can support your body during pregnancy
Firstly, avoid caffeine. Our bodies often naturally help us do this, with many women turning away from traditional tea and coffee. Caffeine and tannins found in these dark drinks are aggravating to the stomach, especially if you aren’t able to eat a lot, they can make you feel very sick.
There are also several natural herbs and botanicals that have been used for millennia to support nausea. Whilst no studies have been done in early pregnancy, due to the risks involved, there are several studies with chemotherapy patients showing ginger root helps ease sickness, as do extracts of citrals that are found in lemon-y herbs (lemon verbena, lemon grass, lemon balm, fresh lemon).
From 32 weeks, you can drink raspberry leaf tea to help prepare your body for labour. Whilst you may read that it can help induce labour if you are overdue, there is actually no research to support this. Instead, the small scale studies that have been done link to helping shortening the second stage of labour (where you are pushing) and reducing interventions in birth. This is linked to a component in the leaf called fragrine, which in lab studies on uterine tissue, show to make the muscles of a pregnant uterus contract. This is why it’s believed to help women, as it gently strengthens the muscles if you drink it over several weeks.
Raspberry leaf has been drunk for thousands of years by pregnant women, but it is often quite difficult to drink. It tastes a little like a bitter green tea.
Author: Bethan Thomas of HotTea Mama
Bethan is a tea expert, having worked for over 16 years as a tea taster and blender for large UK tea companies. She was the first non- Chinese person to get a Tea Science degree from the University of Forestry and Agriculture in Fujian, China.
In 2017 she set up Hot Tea Mama with her best friend – an award winning tea company creating specialist teas to support women through womanhood – from PMS, pregnancy, motherhood and perimenopause, there’s a blend for every stage of life.