The caffeine content of a cup of tea can be lowered to a great extent by reducing the steeping time.
During pregnancy, you try to make every possible effort to make sure that you don't eat or drink anything that can harm your baby. So, you end up making a number of dietary changes. However, caffeine, an alkaloid found in beverages like coffee and tea, has confused women for a long time.
While some people advise to avoid caffeinated beverages completely during pregnancy, others maintain that their consumption in moderation is not harmful for the developing fetus. Though tea contains caffeine, it is considered to be a healthy drink due to its antioxidant content.
Moreover, there is no consensus regarding the harmful effects of caffeine on the developing fetus, as studies conducted so far have demonstrated conflicting results. But it is generally maintained that pregnant women should cut down their caffeine intake. So, they can switch over to decaffeinated tea, and derive the benefits of tea while avoiding the harmful effects of caffeine. Let's find out more about caffeine, its effects on the fetus, and how safe decaffeinated tea is for pregnant women.
How Caffeine Affects You and Your Unborn Child?
» Caffeine is basically a stimulant, a psychoactive substance that acts on the central nervous system to increase alertness. It can also increase your heart rate and the rate of metabolism. Regular consumption of a large amount of caffeinated beverages can cause insomnia, nervousness, and headaches. Caffeine has diuretic properties, and so, it can cause dehydration, if taken in excess. During pregnancy, it is important to stay well-hydrated and limit the intake of caffeine.
» Caffeine can affect the fetus in the same way it affects you. So, it can increase fetal heart rate, and affect your baby's sleep and movement pattern. It can also constrict the blood vessels and thus, reduce the supply of blood to the placenta. If taken in large quantities, caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage, and cause low birth weight and stillbirths. An unborn baby cannot fully metabolize caffeine, and so, it remains in the baby's bloodstream for a long time. The ability to break down caffeine also reduces during pregnancy.
Decaffeinated Tea and Pregnancy
» If you have the habit of drinking tea or coffee daily, then cutting down the intake of caffeine can be a really difficult and challenging task for you. The caffeine content of a cup of tea is usually lower than that of a cup of coffee, as a large amount of caffeine is left in the leaves, which are discarded after making the drink. Tea contains flavones and antioxidants, which are essential for leading a healthy life. Tea can also help you cope with morning sickness and an upset stomach. As far as caffeine and its harmful effects are concerned, these can be avoided by switching over to decaffeinated tea.
» The consumption of a small amount of regular tea is also considered safe during pregnancy. What is important is to avoid the overconsumption of tea, in order to reduce the intake of caffeine. Decaffeinated tea is also not completely free of caffeine, as complete removal of caffeine is not possible. So, it contains a small amount of residual caffeine, which should be kept in mind by pregnant women.
» The process of decaffeination can not only lower the level of caffeine, but the level of flavones and antioxidants as well, which may compromise the nutritional value of tea. But as far as the safety of decaffeinated tea is concerned, its consumption in moderation is considered safe for expecting mothers. But it is better to reduce the amount of tea you drink daily. In general, drinking 2 or 3 cups of decaffeinated tea is considered safe during pregnancy.
» Apart from caffeine, tea contains phenols, which can impair the absorption of iron and folate, if it is consumed with a meal or within half an hour of eating a meal. Green tea contains a compound, known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which can affect the way in which our body uses folate. Therefore, avoid taking tea, including decaffeinated tea immediately after a meal.
Things to Be Considered
» As per the guidelines issued by the Food Standards Agency, the daily caffeine intake of pregnant women should not exceed 200 mg. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, caffeine intake up to 200 mg per day is safe during pregnancy. This is equivalent to 1 to 2 cups of coffee or 3 to 5 cups of tea. However, the caffeine content of coffee depends on the type of beans. For example, robusta beans usually have more caffeine than arabica.
» While sticking to the figure of 200 mg caffeine per day, pregnant women should bear in mind that tea and coffee are not the only sources of caffeine. In fact, this naturally occurring alkaloid can be found in a wide range of food and beverages, of which chocolates, soft drinks, and energy drinks are worth mentioning.
» Caffeine can also be found in many over-the-counter medications used for treating cold, headaches, and allergies. So, while counting your daily caffeine intake, be sure to consider the caffeine content of medications, and the foods and beverages mentioned above. The caffeine content of decaffeinated tea and coffee should also be taken into account, no matter how insignificant it is.
Though consumption of decaffeinated tea is largely considered safe during pregnancy, it is better to follow your physician's suggestions in this regard. If your physician asks you to completely eliminate caffeine, then it is better to do so. But if you are asked to cut down the intake of caffeine, you can enjoy a few cups of decaffeinated tea as long as your daily caffeine intake stays within the safe limit.