Wondering what the best teas for pregnancy are?
I managed to kick a lot of bad habits when I became pregnant. But my love of tea drinking was harder to replace. Tea Sounds pretty harmless. My usual tipple was black with milk and sweetened with lashings of honey. It was an hourly caffeine and sugar spike that probably wasn’t the healthiest choice for me or baby.
But can we allow ourselves this one vice during pregnancy and if not what are the alternatives? What are the best Pregnancy Teas for each stage of motherhood?
Caffeine and Pregnancy- just another pregnancy food myth?
Currently, NHS guidelines state that pregnant women should consume no more than 200mg of caffeine per day, more or less one standard cup of coffee or 4 cups of tea per day.
Caffeine is known to cross the placenta and overuse is linked to low birth weight, preterm labor and even risk of miscarriage.
But the scientific evidence to support this is mixed. In fact the conclusions around caffeine and miscarriage actually stem from studies on rats who were given the human equivalent of 60 cups of coffee per day. (Emily Oster Expecting Better).
This level of caffeine intake is wildly unrealistic in humans.
There is also the question of nausea and aversion to tea and coffee drinking. Nausea or morning sickness is a sign of a healthy pregnancy. Caffeine research is therefore skewed as participating woman who aren’t nauseous (and happily drinking tea and coffee in the first trimester) may have already have been destined for early miscarriage. You therefore cannot link caffeine drinking to these outcomes.
This is good news if you are a coffee or tea lover. However, apart from a short lived energy boost, caffeine does little good at a time when we should be optimising our nutrition.
Coffee, black tea (and even more so caffeinated energy drinks) are nutrient poor.
But the habit of tea drinking, the preparation, the warming comfort of a hot drink not to mention the social rituals of ‘chatting over a cup of tea’ is one we rightfully covet. Tea drinking in pregnancy can be healthy and enjoyable. It can also be used to alleviate ailments and support our bodies in conception, pregnancy and through labor and lactation.
Herbal Teas – what teas to avoid in pregnancy
Not all teas are equal. The following is a list of some of the teas to be avoided at all stages of pregnancy.
- Black Cohosh
- Blue Cohosh
- Sage Tea
- Parsley Tea
- Licorice Root
- Nettle Leaf
- Dong Quai
Herbal blends – teas, lotions and tinctures are powerful and not to be taken without consideration. Always consult a healthcare provider if you have any doubts about safety.
The following are largely considered to be pregnancy-safe teas.
Rooibos Tea or Red bush tea
The journey to conception can be a long one. whether you are grappling with complimentary therapies, hormone treatment or IVF , your health and diet is paramount. For me this meant cutting out caffeine and sugar both of which are proven to wreak havoc with your hormones and in some cases your fertility.
The obvious alternative was Rooibos. Rooibos (Red Bush) is not only naturally caffeine free and pleasantly sweet tasting, it is also rich in antioxidants which can help to boost the immune system. This can be helpful for pregnant women, who are more susceptible to illness.
Another lesser known of its health benefits include its fortifying of the heart. Compounds found in Rooibos tea have been shown to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Rooibos is a great option if you are dealing with high blood pressure.
Rooibos is also lower in Tannins than Green and Black Tea which can interfere with Iron absorption – another plus for pregnancy.
Ginger is often touted for its nausea reducing powers. Fresh ginger steeped in hot water with a slice of lemon can make for a refreshing morning booster.
As well as calming the stomach and promoting digestion, Ginger tea can also help to relieve constipation, which can be a problem for some pregnant women. The gingerols and shogaols in ginger tea can help to stimulate the bowels, and promote regular bowel movements.
Although it’s widely considered safe in pregnancy, I would still only drink in moderation. My tip for the first and second trimester would be to have a selection of three or four teas that you rotate throughout the day – that way you are not consuming anything to excess.
Peppermint tea has many potential benefits and is known to alleviate some unwanted pregnancy symptoms.
It is a traditional remedy for nausea and vomiting and contains menthol, which has anti-spasmodic and relaxing properties that can help to soothe the stomach and intestines.
If you suffer with pregnancy heartburn and indigestion you may also find it helps to reduce acid reflux.
Peppermint may be particularly helpful if you are dealing with headaches during pregnancy. The menthol in peppermint tea can constrict blood vessels in the head, which can help to reduce pain.
Peppermint also aids in promoting calmness and relieving the stress related tension that will exacerbate migraines.
Whilst Peppermint tea is generally considered safe in pregnancy, there is little research on the effects of consuming large quantities. For this reason i would limit intake to one or two cups per day.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea (third trimester)
The ‘dark horse’ of pregnancy Tea! There is much to read about the safeness and effectiveness of this tea during pregnancy.
Often contradictory and always confusing. You will often hear women in your circle either swear by or completely dismiss the effectiveness of this tea. Let me try to debunk some of the myths.
Firstly make no mistake this is a powerful herb which will not be suitable for everyone and is generally only recommended for use after 28 weeks in an uncomplicated pregnancy.
I would suggest starting with one cup per day and gradually increasing to three cups per day by 37 weeks.
I strongly believe in the power of this herb and suspect I have them to thank in part for the speed and ease with which my own children were delivered. With regular use over time, Raspberry Red Leaf Tea is believed to tone the uterus enabling effective uterine contractions and therefore optimising the chances of a natural birth.
MYTH: Red Raspberry Leaf Tea will bring on labor and ensure I don’t go past my due date. This is a common misconception and probably why so many women dismiss it.
TIP: In order for this tea to work, it must be drank in its pure form – leaves steeped in boiling water NOT the branded teas in teabags – they may taste ALOT better but they are simply not strong enough.
For me the taste of this tea in its pure form is not particularly pleasant but then neither is a drawn out labor! Quality Raspberry Leaf Herbs can be hard to come by, but I fully recommend Neal’s Yard Remedies who sell in batches of 50g.
Not convinced? This might do it….A little known fact about this tea is its value once baby has been born. Not only does it facilitate effective contractions during birth but it can also stimulate the uterus as it undergoes the process of contraction back to its normal size. So yes if you are anxious to be rid of your post-partum belly (although really it will probably be the last thing on your mind) this tea could be the tonic.
Breast Feeding Tea
In recent years a wide range of lactation teas to aid milk production, have come to market . My favourite in terms of getting the job done was Neuner’s Organic Nursing Tea. For me I had to be really careful as just one cup of this tea sent me into over production (A nice problem to have!) If I ever needed to batch up milk for the freezer or if I was sick/ dehydrated and my milk production needed a boost, this was my go to.
The active ingredients in these teas are Fenugreek, Fennel milk thistle and Verbena. Why not try incorporating these flavours into your cooking for further benefit of these wonder herbs.
As always seek medical advice before changing any habits during pregnancy.