A pregnant woman needs to drink more liquids than a nonpregnant person. This is because water helps to form the placenta and amniotic fluid. Pregnant women should drink at least eight to 12 glasses of water per day. You should also try to avoid caffeine, as it can cause increased urination and lead to dehydration. Dehydration can bring on complications such as low amniotic fluid or premature labor.
There are certain foods you shouldn’t eat or drink while pregnant because they might be harmful to your baby. Alcohol and raw meat are out of the question, and you may have been warned by your doctor about drinking too much coffee because of the caffeine. Green tea, on the other hand, is often praised for its health benefits. But is it safe during pregnancy?
Green tea is made from the same plant as regular black tea and isn’t considered an herbal tea. It contains caffeine just like coffee, but in smaller amounts. This means you can enjoy green tea occasionally without harming your baby. But like coffee, it’s probably wise to limit your intake to just a cup or two a day.
Read on to learn more about green tea and how much exactly you can consume safely while pregnant.
What is green tea?
Green tea is made from unfermented leaves from the Camelia sinensis plant. It has a mild earthy taste, but green tea isn’t an herbal tea. The following teas are harvested from the same plant as green tea, but processed differently:
- black tea
- white tea
- yellow tea
- oolong tea
Green tea contains high concentrations of antioxidants called polyphenols. The antioxidants fight free radicals in the body and prevent them from damaging DNA in your cells. Researchers believe that antioxidants can help slow down the aging process, lower your risk of cancer, and protect your heart.
Green tea is mostly water and only contains one calorie per cup.
How much caffeine is in green tea?
An 8-ounce cup of green tea contains approximately 24 to 45 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, depending on how strong it’s brewed. On the other hand, 8 ounces of coffee may contain anywhere between 95 and 200 mg of caffeine. In other words, a cup of green tea has less than half the amount of caffeine that’s in your typical cup of coffee.
Be careful though, even a cup of decaffeinated green tea or coffee contains small amounts of caffeine (12 mg or less).
Is green tea dangerous to drink during pregnancy?
Caffeine is considered a stimulant. Caffeine can freely cross the placenta and enter the baby’s bloodstream. You baby takes a much longer time to metabolize (process) the caffeine than a typical adult, so doctors have had concerns about its impact on the developing fetus. But research has shown conflicting evidence about the safety of drinking caffeinated beverages during pregnancy.
Most studies show that drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea in moderation during pregnancy has no harmful effect on the baby.
Other studies show that consuming very high levels of caffeine may be related to problems, including:
- premature birth
- low birth weight
- withdrawal symptoms in babies
A study published in the journal Epidemiology found that women who consumed an average of 200 mg of caffeine per day didn’t have an increased risk of miscarriage.
Researchers in Poland found no risks of premature birth or low birth weight for pregnant women who consumed less than 300 mg of caffeine per day. Another study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found no increased risk of miscarriage in women who drank less than 200 mg of caffeine per day, but did find an increased risk of miscarriage for intake of 200 mg per day or more.
Since it’s a stimulant, caffeine might help keep you awake, but it also can raise your blood pressure and heart rate. This might all be OK at first, but as your pregnancy progresses, your body’s ability to break down caffeine slows down. You might feel jittery, have trouble sleeping, or experience heartburn if you drink too much.
Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means it causes you to release water. Drink plenty of water to offset the water loss caused by caffeine. Never consume excessive amounts (eight cups or more in one day) of tea or coffee during your pregnancy.
How much green tea is safe to consume during pregnancy?
Try to limit your caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg per day. In other words, it’s OK to have a cup or two of green tea each day, possibly up to four cups safely, and stay well below that level.
Just be sure to monitor your overall intake of caffeine to stay below the 200 mg per day level. To make sure you stay below that level, also add up the caffeine you consume in:
- soft drinks
- black tea
- energy drinks
Are herbal teas safe to drink during pregnancy?
Herbal teas are not made from the actual tea plant, but rather from parts of plants:
There are so many herbal teas out on the market today and most don’t have any caffeine, but does this mean they are safe? Most herbal teas haven’t been studied for safety in pregnant women, so it’s best to exercise caution.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate the safety and effectiveness of herbal teas. Most don’t have conclusive evidence of safety during pregnancy. Certain herbs can have side effects for you and your baby. When consumed in large amounts, certain herbal teas may stimulate the uterus and cause a miscarriage.
You should follow a “better safe than sorry” approach to herbal teas, too. It’s best to check with your doctor before drinking any kind of herbal tea during pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association lists red raspberry leaf, peppermint leaf, and lemon balm tea as “likely safe.”
Still, drink these teas in moderation.
While the evidence against caffeine during pregnancy isn’t conclusive, doctors recommend limiting your intake to less than 200 milligrams each day, just in case. Remember, this includes all sources of caffeine, like:
Green tea is OK to drink in moderation because a cup typically contains less than 45 mg of caffeine. Don’t worry if you occasionally exceed the recommended limit, the risks to your baby are very small. But read the product labels before eating or drinking anything that may contain caffeine. Brewed iced green tea might contain more than the average cup.
Eating a well-balanced diet while pregnant is of utmost importance. There are many essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that your developing baby needs. It’s important that you are drinking plenty of water and not replacing your water intake with coffee and tea.
Finally, listen to your body. If your daily cup of green tea is making you feel jittery or not allowing you to sleep well, it’s probably time to cut it out of your diet for the remainder of your pregnancy, or switch to the decaf version. If you have any questions or concerns about what you should or should not drink, talk to your doctor.