Disclaimer – This post is just informative and written after reading non exhaustive research. If you want to make a truly informed decision please contact your health care provider.

It’s a well known and supported fact that alcohol, smoking nicotine, taking unnecessary medications and drugs should be avoided during pregnancy. Especially during the first trimester. But what is the consensus about our favorite beverage – tea?

A little about caffeine

As you must know – tea contains caffeine, an alkaloid also found in products such as coffee, cola soft drinks, cocoa, weight loss medication, food supplements, energy drinks, kombucha, herbs such as guarana and yerba mate, as well as in over the counter medication that treats headaches.

This psychoactive substance can make you happy and alert if consumed on moderate doses but can also make you jittery, cause insomnia or anxiety if absorbed at levels higher than 200 mg per day.

It is also known to create some physical dependence and once you’re hooked, trying to cut down exposes you to withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include headaches, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances or flu-like symptoms, which could be attributed to many other causes including pregnancy.

It has been reported that approximately 80% of women drink beverages that include caffeine every day.

Consumption of high levels of caffeine during pregnancy has been associated with major relative risk outcomes, like:

  • Intrauterine growth restriction

  • Stillbirth

  • Spontaneous abortion

  • Preterm delivery

  • Low birth weight

But how much caffeine is too much caffeine while pregnant?

If you’re a night shift worker, you’d likely say there’s no such thing as too much caffeine. But during pregnancy, it’s a different story.

Being pregnant exposes the body to some hormonal changes. It is believed that those changes affect caffeine metabolism which can lead to elevated caffeine levels if you maintain your pre-pregnancy habits.

To give you an idea on how much caffeine is too much caffeine – let’s look at recommendations from some major health care organizations.

● According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, women in childbearing age should limit their daily consumption to less than 300 mg per day (2).

● WHO recommends (1) lowering daily caffeine intake to less than 300 mg.

● Health Canada recommends that for women of childbearing age/pregnant women/women who are breastfeeding -the recommendation is a maximum daily caffeine intake of no more than 300 mg.

● In the USA – the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends less than 200 mg a day and in Canada – the SOGC recommends 300 mg per day.

Just how much caffeine is 300 mg / day? An average 8 oz cup of coffee contains between 95 and 165 mg of caffeine. But what about our favorite beverage? Depending on the specific type, (white, yellow, green, oolong, black or pu-ehr), tea contains approximately between 10 and 120 mg of caffeine.

Is it safe to consume caffeine while nursing?

Think it’s OK to get back to previous consumption once your baby is born? Think twice. Too much caffeine while breastfeeding may cause your baby to be cranky and have trouble sleeping. Another reason to limit your daily caffeine intake is the potential effect on caffeine on your baby’s iron level. Consumption of more than 450 mg of caffeine per day has been linked to lower iron levels in human milk. Your baby gets the iron they need from breast milk during the first 6 months of breastfeeding so this could affect the iron levels of your baby. (4)

Are Herbal Teas a better choice when pregnant or nursing?

Because of personal preferences, and because they want what is best for their babies, some expecting mothers will choose to switch to herbal teas. The last few years have seen an increase in the availability of products made from the roots, berries, flowers, seeds and leaves of a variety of plants that are different from camellia sinensis (aka the tea plant).

The consumption has been led by trends but also by tradition with the aim of helping with conditions such as anxiety, sleep disorders, cough and cold symptoms, and nausea during pregnancy. But women need to be careful and do their research because herbs are not regulated to the same degree as traditional pharmaceutical products and may stimulate uterine contractions, have estrogen like effects or have an impact on blood pressure.

So here is what I found through a quick search on Google. Herbal teas that are considered unsafe during pregnancy (again, this is what is available online via google, not coming as results from randomized control trials):

Chamomile – higher incidence of miscarriage and preterm labor

Coltsfoot – who almost looks like dandelion – is unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Juniper berry – may increase uterine contractions

Penny royal – may increase uterine contractions

Labrador tea – risk of abortion

Sassafras – stimulate menstrual flow

Duck root – laxative effect

Fennel – hormone altering effect

Fenugreek – stimulates the uterus and causes contractions

Yellow dock – laxative effect

Nettle/stinging nettle – stimulates the uterus and causes contractions

Ephedra – due to its severe cardiovascular related side effects

Many other herbs on the market such as aloe, senna leave, comfrey, lobelia, alfalfa, ginseng, red raspberry leaf and buckthorn bark also made the list of herbs to avoid due to a lack of research on their safety. According to the SOGC – Herbal medicine has not been clinically tested for safety or effectiveness and very few have been tested for safety during pregnancy. Although a product may be considered natural, it still can contain ingredients that could harm your baby. Again, always talk to your health care provider first.

Herbal teas that are considered safe during pregnancy:

● Orange peel

● Echinacea

● Ginger

● Peppermint

● Rose hip

● Lemon Balm

Conclusion: Caffeinated tea VS. Herbal tea while Pregnant

Another factor to be aware of is that some herbal teas may also interact with prescription drugs in negative ways. So it is advisable to stay away from anything that is considered unsafe or that contains unfamiliar ingredients. There truly is the lack of research done on the use of herbal teas during pregnancy. Most health organizations and doctors advise pregnant women as a preventative measure to avoid the consumption of herbs in quantities greater than food amounts (3).

So please, do your research before consuming any herbal products and consult your doctor or midwife to be sure you’re making the best choice for you and your baby.


1. https://www.who.int/elena/titles/caffeine-pregnancy/en/

2. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/pregnancy/caffeine.html

3. https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-014-0174-6

4. https://www.lllc.ca/caffeine-and-breastfeeding

Sarah + Chris

What has been your preferred tea during your pregnancy? Let us know in the comments below.

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