To drink or not to drink during pregnancy?
By Kumkum Pandey
The practice of making and drinking green tea has been in rituals from thousands of years, and for good reason. Green tea has been thought to be a health enriching drink. It contains antioxidants that lower the risk of cancer, prevents heart disease and cell damage in the body and has nutrients like vitamins and minerals that boost our immune system. A comforting cup may alleviate morning sickness and prevent insomnia.
Some studies have linked high levels of green tea consumption around the time of conception and during pregnancy with increased incidents of spina bifida and anencephaly, a birth defect that results in the absence of part of the brain and skull. Both are ‘neural tube’ disorders associated with folic acid deficiency. Scientists have said that caffeine in green tea would be expected to cause a significant drop in folic acid levels in mums that is an important nutrient, particularly during the pregnancy. Thus it may affect the baby’s motor development or intelligence. Another study from Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Division of Research found that pregnant women who consumed more than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily had double the risk of miscarriage compared with those who avoided the stimulant. However, a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found no association between intakes of up to 350 milligrams of caffeine and pregnancy.
It would be inferred that the scientists also got confused whether it affects the pregnancy or not. There is a big question.
Without a definitive answer on the effects of caffeine while expecting, eminent scientists agree it’s best to use caution and limit intake to less than 200 milligrams a day, which is about three to four cups of green tea. “Caffeine in any form is too stimulating during pregnancy,” says Hirota. “It also increases the load on the liver, which is already busy processing pregnancy hormones.” So bear in mind that this limit includes all sources of caffeine in pregnancy that need to count – viz. coffee, cola, energy drinks, chocolates and soft drinks. However, drinking too much is potentially dangerous during pregnancy and should be avoided – because pregnancy is the most powerful creation to have life growing inside of women, there is no bigger gift than this.