Green Tea and Pregnancy: Beneficial or Risky?

Pregnancy increases awareness of healthy food and drink choices. One concern for expectant mothers is the side effects of green tea in pregnancy. Moms-to-be must weigh their concerns about green tea’s caffeine content with its health benefits, such as the prevention of cancer, heart diseases, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, and more.

Since ancient times, green tea has been known to provide immense health benefits. A large reason for its popularity as a health drink is its high antioxidant level. Antioxidants shield the body from the cell-damaging effects of chemical pollutants, radiation, environmental pollution, and even physical and emotional stress.

Also beneficial during pregnancy is green tea’s ability to help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as to help control hypertension. High blood pressure and uncontrolled blood sugar levels can be risk factors in late pregnancy, resulting in gestational hypertension and gestational diabetes. The antioxidants also help boost the immune system of pregnant moms. Another benefit is the reduction of indigestion, which is very common during pregnancy.

Drinking green tea during pregnancy can be beneficial, but it is important to consider the risk factors. Caffeine is diuretic. That means it causes the body to release or excrete more water than usual. During pregnancy, hydration is important. Dehydration can rob the body of necessary nutrients. Pregnancy requires an increased amount of vitamins and minerals, and diuretics can facilitate the loss of these nutrients through the urine.

The active antioxidant in green tea, epigallocathechin gallate (EGCG), is of concern for pregnant women. A study done by British and Spanish scientists and posted in the March 2005 issue of Cancer Research proves that EGCG can affect pregnancy. Though it provides many health benefits, EGCG inhibits the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), which is responsible for the uptake of folic acid. Even before a pregnancy, women who are trying to conceive are advised to take folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida.

Green tea’s health benefits may outweigh its side effects, but a consultation with a health professional is important. Tea may be a key element of a healthy pregnancy.