When you’re pregnant, drinking a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea may seem like a better option than downing a cup of coffee or black tea. But Dr. Laura Riley, author of “Pregnancy: The Ultimate Week By Week Pregnancy Guide,” argues that drinking any herbal teas while you are pregnant is not safe for you or your baby. The American Pregnancy Association recommends certain teas, but only with the approval of your doctor or midwife.
Herbal Teas Defined
Herbals teas are not true teas as they don’t contain leaves from the tea plant Camellia sinensis. Instead, herbal teas consist of a mix of seeds, roots, flowers and leaves from a variety of other plants, such as mint, chamomile and ginger. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free, unlike regular tea, which even when decaffeinated still contains small amounts of caffeine.
Some herbal teas are safer than others to drink during pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association lists herbs that the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database has determined to be “likely safe.” Herbs with this rating have been tested by the Federal Drug Administration or Health Canada. Peppermint, lemon balm and red raspberry leaf are all herbs on the “likely safe” list. Ginger is labeled “possibly safe,” meaning there are no studies that have shown negative effects.
Contradictory advice exists for two herbs in particular — red raspberry leaf and stinging nettles. According to MayoClinic.com, large amounts of red raspberry leaf can lead to contractions, even though the herb is categorized as “likely safe.” The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database labels stinging nettles as “likely unsafe.” Baby Center suggests you avoid them when pregnant as they can cause contractions and an early delivery, yet nettles are often found in pregnancy teas because they are high in calcium, potassium and iron, as well as vitamins A, C and K. Since confusion abounds, consult your doctor before drinking a pregnancy tea.
What to Definitely Avoid
Herbs have medicinal properties when consumed in high quantities; some properties are so strong they can negatively impact your pregnancy and should be avoided at all costs, according to Dr. Linda B. White in “Wise Use of Herbs and Vitamins during Pregnancy.” Motherwort, licorice and dong quai can affect your hormone levels, and hyssop, yarrow and chicory may stimulate menstruation, which can lead to miscarriage.
Make Your Own
If your doctor agrees that you should avoid drinking herbal teas, you may want to prepare your own hot beverages at home. The American Pregnancy Association recommends boiling fruits such as lemons, oranges or apples in water for a gently flavored, healthful drink. Try adding fruit to decaffeinated tea and add a bit of honey to the drink for a touch of sweetness.