Tea Consumption and Pregnancy

Pregnant women drinking tea

Pregnancy can be a wonderful and exciting time in any woman’s life; after all, you are literally contriving a whole other human being within your womb from just two cells! On the other hand, for anyone who has ever been with child, you understand and can empathize with how exhausting, laborious, painful, and downright nauseating it can be, and I mean that final point in the most literal sense. The unpleasant symptoms and tribulations of pregnancy may be alleviated by daily habits such as ensuring adequate fiber intake, physical activity, incorporating nutrient-dense foods and prenatal supplements that support healthy weight gain and micronutrient needs for your depleting nutrient stores and the needs of the growing fetus. Imbibing specific herbal teas, however, can also be beneficial for symptom relief throughout your trimesters.

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Gastrointestinal issues and herbal teas

The first trimester of pregnancy is marked by an massive increase in cardiac output by 30-50%, the major hormones responsible for nourishing and maintaining the pregnancy are peaking such as progesterone, HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), and estrogen, and all of the major organ systems are developing. This stage of pregnancy is notoriously fatiguing for the mother, and nausea and vomiting, headaches, and constipation are all very common and attributed to the aforementioned physiological changes.

Nausea and vomiting are often accompanied by profound taste and smell changes that make the desire for food and variety hampered and limited. These gastrointestinal effects usually appear around 4-9 weeks and generally subside into the beginning of the second trimester, at around 16 weeks. In addition, heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) is also a common complaint throughout pregnancy as a burgeoning uterus and normal hormonal perturbations cause relaxation of the esophageal sphincter, allowing acidic gastric contents to flow up the esophagus. This common issue can burn the esophagus, cause bad tastes in the mouth, and can further contribute to nausea.

Ginger

Preparations of ginger tea and other ginger products, may help alleviate nausea due to its prokinetic properties which promote gastric motility and emptying, as well as increasing gastric contractility. These observations considered together, most likely account for the antiemetic and anti-nauseant properties of ginger.

 Happy pregnant mamma sipping some freshly brewed ginger tea, all ingredients displayed

Peppermint

An infusion of peppermint leaves consumed as a tea, can help relieve flatulence (an unfortunate side effect throughout pregnancy), nausea, vomiting and gastroesophageal reflux. Peppermint is considered an emmenagogue or a substance which promotes menstruation. However, while there is no evidence to suggest peppermint consumption has been associated with miscarriage, it is best to be avoided during the first trimester. Peppermint tea is generally considered safe during pregnancy but should be consumed in moderation at one to two cups per day.

Anxiety and sleep

Lemon balm

Lemon balm is a sweet-smelling and rejuvenating plant, and tea made from its leaves is drunk for the pronounced effects it imbues to calm, sedate and relieve anxiety. Increasing suggestions demonstrate that lemon balm can help control symptoms of a sour stomach), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and acid reflux. Lemon balm is comprised of citral, citronellal, linalool, geraniol, and beta-caryophyllene, each of which has anti-spasm and anti-flatulence properties.

Lemon balm continues to demonstrate success in relieving indigestion and nausea due to these antispasmodic properties. The antispasmodic and spasmolytic effects in relaxing tense muscles have also shown effective to relieve menstrual cramps, conversely with respect to pregnancy, it is recognized as safe to consume and can help relax a pregnant mom, even just the act of sipping on a steaming cuppa.

 Lemon Balm Tea, freshly brewed with slices of lemon on the side

Uterine effects and labour

Red raspberry leaf

Red raspberry leaf tea, is a commonly used tea consumed by expectant mothers usually during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy to tone the muscular myometrium of the uterus with a goal to tone the uterus, relieve labor pains and even promote labor contractions. Various sources and testimonials illustrate that red raspberry leaf can induce or shorten labor, however its effect on the uterine muscle warrants caution for women in the first trimester.

Teas to avoid

Herbal tea concoctions which are contraindicated during pregnancy for reasons such as promoting or being associated with preterm labor, low birthweight and other potentially unsafe situations for mother and child, include the following:

  • Chamomile
  • Aloe
  • Buckthorn bark
  • Pennyroyal
  • Senna
  • Parsley
  • Comfrey
  • Juniper
  • Coltswood
  • Labrador
  • Duck roots
  • Lobelia 

Caution and Suggestions

In considering the vulnerable and precarious nature of pregnancy and the limitations imposed, there are certain factors to keep in mind when considering a herbal tea, including:

  • Speaking to your physician or midwife regarding your unique symptoms and ways to ameliorate them with dietary and lifestyle practices such as herbal tea usage, indications and safety. Disclose all medications, supplements and dietary herb consumption.
  • Beware of brewing time. Steeping tea for 1-2 minutes will allow diffusion of taste and active components of the tea but leaving a tea bag in the beverage will increase the strength of said components as well as the flavor.
  • Purchase Certified Organic, third party tested teas to ensure that there is no contamination of the tea with heavy metals or other leaves unspecified.
  • Be mindful and read the ingredient list of teas which could potentially be mixed with several or more different herbs which could pose a danger to you or your growing fetus.
  • Drink in moderation.
  • Ensure adequate hydration by preferentially choosing water, milk and milk alternatives, juice and caffeinated beverages in moderation.

Pregnancy is a wonderful period in a woman’s life as she grows and carries a new life into the world yet may be fraught with unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue, labor pain, and gastrointestinal issues. Preparing certain herbal tea beverages such as ginger root, lemon balm, red raspberry leaf, and peppermint can prove efficacious at ameliorating these annoying and discomforting symptoms.

 

References

Canada, P. H. A. of. (2020, January 31). Government of Canada. Canada.ca. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/pregnancy/caffeine.html

Fletcher, J. (2020). Health benefits and ways to use Lemon Balm. Medical News Today. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/lemon-balm-uses

Herbal tea and pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. (2021, July 16). Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/herbal-tea/

Herbal teas during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Pregnancy Birth and Baby. (2021). Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/herbal-teas-during-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding

Muñoz Balbontín, Y., Stewart, D., Shetty, A., Fitton, C. A., & McLay, J. S. (2019, May). Herbal medicinal product use during pregnancy and the postnatal period: A systematic review. Obstetrics and gynecology. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6485309

Petre, A. (2020, April 28). Is tea safe during pregnancy? Healthline. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-tea-safe-during-pregnancy#contamination]

Smith-Garcia, D. (2021, January 13). Peppermint tea in pregnancy: Safety, benefits, and more. Healthline. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/peppermint-tea-pregnancy#benefits

Stickler, T. (2020, October 16). What happens during the trimesters of pregnancy? Healthline. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/calendar#first-trimester

Terzioglu Bebitoglu, B. (2020). Frequently used herbal teas during pregnancy - short update. Medeniyet medical journal. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7384490/

Viljoen, E., Visser, J., Koen, N., & Musekiwa, A. (2014, March 19). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting. Nutrition journal. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3995184/