Everyone needs an occasional pick-me-up and green tea can be that for many moms-to-be. But are you worried about whether it could mess with your health or your baby’s? It shouldn’t! As you will see, green tea does have plenty of goodness to offer. Just be mindful of its caffeine and catechin content that may complicate your pregnancy if consumed in very high amounts.
Health experts suggest limiting your total caffeine intake – from green tea as well as other caffeine sources like chocolate, coffee, or other caffeinated drinks – to under 200 mg a day. For instance, the Food Safety Authority specifically recommends keeping green tea intake to under 4 cups a day. However, do note, the actual amount of caffeine you can safely have while pregnant is also relative.
As most tea manufacturers explain, the level of caffeine in a cup of green tea depends on the size of the serving and amount of tea leaf you use, the amount of time you brew your tea for, and the particular variety of tea you are having. Different brands and different variants within each brand have different caffeine levels. Expect 30–50 mg on an average, though some green teas may have as much as 70 mg in a cup. Err on the lower side with your caffeine intake just to be safe.
If your green tea is a herbal one that combines tea with other herbal ingredients, you need to be extra careful. Check with your doctor or midwife if it is safe to consume that blend of green tea, especially during the early days. Again, the quantity you consume as well as your own medical history will also determine whether or not certain herbs are likely to be a problem.
Don’t worry about losing out on pregnancy-related nutrients or benefits of green tea. Unlike certain herbal teas that come recommended by midwives and alternative therapists during pregnancy – say ginger root for nausea or red raspberry leaf in later pregnancy for uterine health – green tea doesn’t have any health benefits specifically for a pregnant woman or her baby.
You can, however, gain from its other benefits for overall health. And this is why you would want to continue to drink after getting pregnant as well.
- Drinking a few cups of green tea a day (about 3 in most studies) may help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in your body.
- The polyphenols in it may help fight free radical damage and aging but, more importantly, may also help ward off cancer.
- It could lower inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in those with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Diabetics may benefit from its blood glucose-regulating properties.
- Green tea may protect your liver from alcohol-induced toxicity and damage.
- Green tea extract can also help boost your metabolism and potentially aid weight loss.
Although it’s safe and even beneficial overall to continue having green tea, the amount of tea you drink will need to be regulated when you are expecting. Here’s why.
The high levels of green tea catechin epigallocatechin (EGCG), responsible for its anti-cancerous properties, may actually be problematic if you’re pregnant.
EGCG is said to adversely affect circulating folate levels in the body. And that’s precisely what one Japanese study on women who consumed very high levels of green tea or oolong tea (another tea with high levels of EGCG) found. Serum folate levels of those women who consumed high amounts of green or oolong tea – over 57.3 ml of green tea per 1000 kcal consumed – was significantly lower than in women who drank less of the tea.
This is critical because folate is needed during pregnancy to help with normal development of the baby and a healthy pregnancy. Specifically, inadequate folate levels can result in neural tube defects like spina bifida or restrict fetal growth inside the uterus. It may even raise the risk of preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition for pregnant women.
If you’re wondering whether the caffeine intake through green tea can affect your baby, the answer is yes. Caffeine can cross the placenta to your baby. Very high levels of caffeine intake can even cause your baby to have a low birth weight. This in turn may raise the risk of health problems like infant respiratory distress syndrome, intraventricular hemorrhage in the brain, or sudden infant death syndrome.
Just as worrying, excessive caffeine may even raise the risk of a miscarriage. Reason enough to go easy on the green tea especially during early pregnancy. While it isn’t a beverage that’s off the cards entirely, it is definitely one that should be consumed in limited amounts.
Too much green tea can cause certain unpleasant side effects, some of which can be potentially dangerous especially when you are pregnant. High caffeine intake from green tea could result in dizziness. It may worsen nausea and vomiting or diarrhea and cause you to lose your appetite – hardly what a woman already burdened by morning sickness wants to hear! Some people experience headaches, insomnia, and even palpitations. At the very least, you could end up feeling very irritable.
Remember, if you have abdominal spasms or vomiting and know you’ve had a lot of green tea, contact your doctor immediately. This could be a sign of caffeine poisoning. For milder symptoms, be sure to cut down your intake. You could even play it safe and stop having the drink altogether.