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Herbal Teas in Pregnancy: What's Safe and When?

Katlyn Joy |28, May 2013


If it doesn't require an ID or a prescription, it seems many of us believe it's safe in pregnancy. However, that is not remotely true. Some of the most mundane seeming ingredients can actually be deadly while pregnant. It's important to know what is safe and what just looks or sounds safe.

A steeping pot of tea sounds gentle and safe as can be. But brew the wrong leaves or bags, and you can bring on nausea, vomiting, cramps or even cause fetal harm or miscarriage.

Different Types of Teas

The two main classes of teas are herbal or non-herbal tea. Non-herbal tea is made from the leaves of tea plants. Herbal teas are made from different plants, using seeds, flowers, roots, berries and leaves for their flavor.

Non-herbal teas include black, green and oolong types and contain both antioxidants as well as caffeine. How much caffeine they contain depends on the type of tea and how long it is brewed. Even if a non-herbal tea is labeled decaffeinated it will contain trace amounts of caffeine.

Herbal teas have been used for thousands of years, often for their medicinal capabilities and if actually herbal tea, they don't contain caffeine.

Possible Benefits of Teas

Non-herbal teas can have a number of benefits to the drinker, but since they contain caffeine pregnant women should avoid them. No safe standard has been set for caffeine levels for expectant moms and tea may contain upwards of 40 milligrams in just one cup.

Herbal teas can also have positive effects, even for pregnant women. Some women find certain teas ease morning sickness, help fight dehydration, and help with other pregnancy woes such as sleeplessness, prevent situations such as pre-eclampsia, premature labor or rupture of membranes, or post-term birth, and help contractions during labor.

Some teas also can boost nutrition by providing a source of calcium, magnesium, vitamins A and C and potassium.

Teas That May Be Beneficial During Pregnancy

Most teas marketed as herbal teas and for sale in grocery store aisles are safe for pregnant women. Particularly safe are ones marketed to pregnant women. Among those frequently used by expectant moms:

  • Ginger-good for morning sickness.
  • Peppermint-eases nausea and helps with gassiness.
  • Chamomile-promotes good sleep and is a good source of magnesium and calcium.
  • Lemon balm-reduces anxiety and promotes a sense of calm.
  • Red raspberry leaves-believed to help promote effective contractions during labor.

Safety Concerns Regarding Herbal Teas

One of the biggest concerns about using herbs while pregnant is that they are not tested by the FDA so studies proving safety are virtually non-existent. Besides this major area of worry, another is that some herbs are considered safe by some and dangerous by others, such as the case with nettles, a common ingredient in many pregnancy teas. Most likely it is safe in the amounts contained in these teas, but to make your own is to chance getting the strength exactly right.

Some herbs are clearly dangerous to expectant mothers and/or their unborn babies. Among those are any teas containing caffeine or any stimulants. Any herbal supplement or tea that is meant to cause weight loss is dangerous for pregnant women including those with kola nut, guarana and yohimba.

Cleansing teas or detox teas are to be avoided by pregnant women, as are PMS teas or herbal laxative teas.

Other ingredients to avoid:

  • Goldenseal
  • Ephedra
  • Black or blue cohosh
  • Dong Quai
  • Passion flower
  • Pennyroyal
  • Saw palmetto
  • Evening primrose
  • Feverfew
  • Kava kava
  • Senna

To be wise, always consult your physician before trying any over the counter product, medication, herbal supplement, or herbal tea. Even when safe to use, caution must be used in using in conjunction with other medications or substances due to the possibility of harmful interactions.

Sources: American Pregnancy, WebMD, FitPregnancy

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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