I am 3 months pregnant and a tea addict. I get nausea when I take coffee and plain milk so I love my tea with a lot of tea leaves. However, my mother tells me it might cause a miscarriage. Is tea really harmful for my pregnancy or should I continue drinking it?
Marie Louise, Rwamagana
Dear Marie Louise,
First off all accept my heartiest congratulations for your pregnancy. I presume this is the first pregnancy, hence the anxiety.
Drinking tea in moderation is as such considered safe during pregnancy. All varieties of naturally occurring tea contain caffeine which passes to the fetus through placenta like alcohol. In the past 2 decades or so, much study has been done on influence of caffeinated drinks on pregnancy in general and tea is one of them. But not much study has been done specifically on how does tea effect pregnancy.
Caffeine in high amounts carries risk of causing miscarriage, stillbirth and low birth weight babies. Studies have shown that heavy caffeine intake can also harm the intrauterine baby,
The high amounts of caffeine as present in coffee usually cause nausea, thus aggravating the morning sickness. One cup of about 12oz of coffee contains about 200mg. of caffeine, whereas 3 cups of tea contains less than 200 mg. of caffeine. Hence many women resort to drinking tea as it causes less nausea. But, considering the risks involved, doctors recommend pregnant women to avoid drinking tea in heavy amounts.
As per the American pregnancy association, pregnant women are advised to drink about 1 to 3 cups of tea per day. It is also advisable to consult a doctor, nurse or midwife when pregnant regarding quantity of tea to be consumed
There is another issue of safety of drinking herbal teas during pregnancy. Herbal teas encompass all hot water infusions made from plant extracts. They are very diverse and ingredients include eucalyptus, chamomile, apricot, calendula and many others. Due to extensively diverse nature of the ingredients, no significant studies have been done on the effects of these various kinds of herbal teas on pregnancy. However many of these herbal teas have various kinds of medicinal properties. Medicines are usually avoided during pregnancy particularly during the first trimester as body of the baby is formed during this time.
The dictum is no medicine should be taken unless the benefits outweigh the harmful effects. Moreover though some herbs like ginger root are beneficial but many induce abortion also. Because safety of all herbs during pregnancy has not been studied extensively, it is best to avoid them.
The best path for you at this stage of life would be to drink tea but in moderation. After taking 2 to 3 cups if you get the craving to drink more, avoid it unless the craving becomes very strong. Try taking light tea with few tea leaves. After all it is just a question of few days. Time flies rapidly and very soon you shall have a baby in your arms after which you can drink as much tea as you wish.
Dr. Rachna Pande