As the world’s favorite Tea Sommelier and a local celebrity, I’m constantly solicited for advice. Among these questions, one of the most frequent is, “is it okay to drink tea when I’m pregnant?” I then remind my brother that he cannot get pregnant. So in honor of Mother’s Day (May 11 – just a month away, kids), I’ll tackle this question and more.
First and foremost: kick the caffeine. While small quantities of caffeine are considered acceptable by most doctors, it is advantageous to cut out as much caffeine as possible. Pregnant women metabolize caffeine slower than other adults. The caffeine can also enter the bloodstream of the baby, quickening the heartbeat and possibly also impairing development. Remember, there are many sources of caffeine besides coffee and tea, including chocolate, soda and some over-the-counter medications, so any chance to not ingest caffeine should be taken.
Practically all herbal teas on the market are completely and naturally caffeine free, and many are considered beneficial for pregnant women. In South Africa, the drink of choice of expectant mothers is Rooibos “Red” tea. This caffeine-free herbal infusion has been shown to soothe the body’s reaction to allergy and rashes (At an herbal store, you’ll probably find Rooibos under the name “Herbal Allergy tea” due to this natural allergy-fighting quality). Recent studies have shown that Rooibos tea may also have a significant amount of antioxidants (health-inducing compounds), comparable to those found in green tea.
Relief of the aches and pains associated with pregnancy is another way in which herbal teas may aid expecting mothers. The first instinct may be for Chamomile, since it is famous for its relaxing effects. However, this is a member of the Ragweed family, so may potentially cause the child to have an allergic reaction. Instead, I’d recommend Peppermint. This has been used for millennia, dating back to the Greeks, as a caffeine-free home remedy that also promotes relaxation for moms-to-be. In addition, it has been shown to sooth the stomach, especially useful for those that are prone to morning sickness.
Some cautions apply to teas touted for pregnant women. While the makers of “pregnancy teas” promote their products as an all-around aid and tonic for expectant moms, very few of them have actual clinical studies to support these claims. Pregnancy teas sold in health food stores and in the natural products sections of markets usually include ingredients such as strawberry leaf, lemon grass leaf, nettle leaf, alfalfa, fennel seed, rosehips, and lemon verbena – all safe. But to be sure, check the ingredients… and always check with your doctor.
As an endnote, I wanted to share one of the weirdest pieces of advice I picked up when compiling the research for this article. This seems to be a custom in many cultures worldwide: pregnant women should stay out of the wind. Some folks even take this as far as to not let the pregnant woman (or the child) leave the house for 30 days before and after the expected date of birth.
Many healthy, happy cups and a Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and moms-to-be!