Tea for Two: Herbal Teas to Avoid During Pregnancy

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Whether you’re looking to calm the mind, soothe an upset tummy or just enjoy the gentle flavours and aromas, herbal teas generally hit the spot. But if you’re travelling with a baby on board, you should be aware that there are some herbal teas to avoid during pregnancy. While many are quite safe and even recommended for mums-to-be, there are a few that may cause problems for you and your unborn baby.

Read on to discover whether your favourite tea is a healthy or harmful ‘tea for two’ choice.

For most of us, research into pregnancy and planning for a new baby begins well before we actually fall pregnant. And the sheer volume of information to sift through and choices to make can be overwhelming. Some things are common sense and others are common knowledge, like avoiding alcohol and limiting your caffeine consumption. But the effects of herbal teas are not as widely known or widely researched, and drinking them during pregnancy may have undesirable side effects, especially if they are consumed in large quantities.
While a few herbs sprinkled on your food or the odd cup of a caffeine-containing tea aren’t going to make much of a difference, these minute quantities can be unwittingly increased if you regularly consume the commercially available blended varieties. You should definitely read the labels to see whether the same herb is an ingredient of any blended teas you drink on a regular basis. Most problems, as with most things, are caused by over consumption.

Just as certain foods that you may regularly consume become unsafe during pregnancy, certain herbal teas may pose a risk to a developing foetus for a variety of reasons. Common sense should prevail, though, and if you have already had a cup or two of one of these teas while pregnant, it is likely nothing to worry about. But, just to be on the safe side, it would be wise to pass on the following herbal teas till after baby is born.

Herbal Teas to Avoid During Pregnancy:

Hibiscus – the root extract may interfere with oestrogen levels and prevent implantation. It should be avoided in first trimester due to its impact on hormonal activity1.

Ma Huang/Ephedra – this herb contains ephedrine and related alkaloids and can increase blood pressure and heart rate as well as stimulate uterine muscle2.

Black and Blue Cohosh – both these herbs have traditionally been used to induce labour4.

Don Quai – this one has a stimulating effect on the uterus and is often prescribed to alleviate problems with menstruation5. Because of its strong stimulant effect, it should be avoided in pregnancy.

Lemongrass – this herb can decrease blood pressure and cause uterine contractions6.

Ginseng – more research is required on this one but studies have shown it may cause foetal growth problems, especially if taken during the first trimester. Best to stay safe and avoid7.

Liquorice Root – this is another one that may mimic the effects of estrogen, a female sex hormone, and potentially bring about premature labor8.

Pennyroyal – has been used for centuries to regulate menstruation and bring about miscarriage, but it can also cause serious liver and kidney damage9.

St. John’s Wort – this herb is a commonly used anti-depressant but there is not enough information available on its safety during pregnancy. Birth defects and stimulus of the uterus are potential side effects that need further study10.

Yarrow – this herb is a muscle relaxant and has been linked to miscarriage11.

While studies of the effects of herbs during pregnancy are in no way conclusive, further information is easily available as to why the above teas many be harmful. Click on the links in the footnotes or type the name of your favourite herbal teas into a search engine along with the word ‘pregnancy’ for more details on why certain teas should be avoided. If your favourite is on the no-no list, keep in mind that while the 40 weeks of pregnancy may seem like an eternity, it really is just a drop in the bucket. The sacrifices you make for your baby now will pay off in the long run for both you and your child.

The above information is provided as a general guide only. You should discuss your needs with your pregnancy support professional to get specific advice directly related to your individual situation. A warm cup of herbal tea can calm your tummy and your nerves during the turbulent times of pregnancy. Just be sure you get professional advice about which ones are safe for your growing baby.

For some ideas about caffeine free alternatives during pregnancy read here!

  1. http://www.livestrong.com/article/277982-hibiscus-tea-pregnancy/
  2. https://www.drugs.com/npc/ma-huang.html
  3. http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2012/12/27/tea-pregnancy-which-ones-are-safe/
  4. Ibid
  5. http://natural-fertility-info.com/dong-quai-fertility-herb.html
  6. http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20030924/early-pregnancy-risk-with-ginseng#1
  7. http://www.livestrong.com/article/397958-safety-of-licorice-root-during-pregnancy/
  8. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/480.html
  9. http://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/st-johns-wort/
  10. http://www.health-and-parenting.com/drinking-herbal-teas-pregnancy/

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