Pregnancy is a stage in a woman’s life when she stops thinking about herself and starts putting the interests of her baby before hers.
Since green tea has become such a popular drink with so many proven health benefits, soon-to-be mothers are starting to wander whether green tea and pregnancy can go together; whether this drink is safe for the baby, or it’s better to stop drinking it altogether for the all-important nine months.
During pregnancy, health and nutrition rules change dramatically, and what used to be beneficial for a healthy woman may be harmful for an expecting mother.
If we take a look at the two important ingredients (caffeine and EGCG) we can easily understand why drinking a large amount may be harmful for the baby.
Caffeine and pregnancy: What’s the Safe Amount?
Green tea contains caffeine. Caffeine crosses the placenta and it has been associated with:
- high abortion rate
- low birth weight
- congenital malformations
However, recent studies have proven that a moderate intake of 200ml of caffeine won’t get these effects; since coffee contains about twice as much caffeine as green tea, it is safe to drink 2 cups of coffee or 4 cups of regular tea.
Keep in mind that caffeine also can be found in cola, chocolate, energy drinks, soft drinks, etc and you should take all sources into consideration for your daily intake. Read the labels carefully because there are major differences between brands.
For example, a Tall Starbucks brewed coffee (12 fl. oz or 350ml) has 260 mg of caffeine, a Grande (16 fl. oz or 470ml) has 320 mg and a Venti (20 fl. oz or 590ml) has 330 mg of caffeine.
EGCG and pregnancy
EGCG is the miracle antioxidant that is responsible for the many benefits green tea has on overall health. While antioxidants are generally very good for us, EGCG may cause some problems during pregnancy.
Folic acid (a water-soluble B-vitamin, also called folate) is an important supplement that pregnant women are encouraged to take, as the lack of this acid has been associated with neural tube defects in babies.
The EGCG binds with an enzyme called dihydrofolate reductase, deactivating it. This deactivation affects the way the body uses folate, which may lead to birth defects such as spina bifida.
In short EGCG reduces the amount of folic acid and increases the risks of birth defects. This folic acid is especially important during the first trimester of pregnancy when the neural system of the baby is forming, so you should take folic acid supplements and avoid drinking more than two cups of green tea during this period.
Green tea may help the mother during pregnancy because it regulates blood pressure and cholesterol; it protects against heart diseases and strengthens the immune system.
Because EGCG reduces the amount of folic acid absorbed by the body, you should limit the amount of tea you drink in early pregnancy to a cup or two a day.
There is no official advice that says tea is harmful and should be avoided in pregnancy, so drinking it moderately is permitted.
If you have any doubts about drinking green tea while pregnant you should talk to your physician, who will be able to reassure you and recommend the amount you may drink a day.