Is Matcha Tea Safe During Pregnancy? Benefits and Risks

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Matcha tea has many health benefits to an average drinker. But you might be wondering what benefits and risks are relevant to a tea enthusiast who is also pregnant. 

Green tea, including matcha, is considered safe for pregnant women. The anti-inflammatory properties of the antioxidants are beneficial, but there are risks. Fortunately, the risk of blocking the absorption of folate and iron can easily be compensated with supplements or a more moderate tea intake. 

Read on to understand more about the potential risks and benefits of matcha tea during pregnancy. 

Is Matcha Safe During Pregnancy?

Matcha tea can be safe for pregnant women. It can block some nutrients. But as long as you are taking vitamins and drinking moderate amounts of tea, you and your pregnancy should be safe.

Matcha and other popular green teas come from the Camellia sinensis leaf. They are considered safe to consume during pregnancy, even though numerous studies evaluate the effects of tea consumption during pregnancy and nursing (source: Scientific Reports). 

matcha tea, powder and leaves on the table

The way that matcha is processed means it has a higher concentration of compounds. These molecules have more of both positive and negative effects. Therefore, it has a few issues that mothers who love to drink green tea might consider. 

You can counter these nutritional issues by taking supplements if you and your doctor deem that appropriate. The main risks evaluated are folate, iron, and caffeine content. 

Catechin is an antioxidant in green tea that interacts with folate. Catechin can make it so that your body won’t absorb folate (source: Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology). 

The suspicion comes from numerous studies that found that women who drink the most tea tend to have lower folic acid levels than non-tea drinkers or even moderate levels of tea drinking. One study found that four cups of matcha green tea each day was enough to cause an issue. 

Particularly in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, you need more folate. Low folate levels during this stage contribute to a higher risk of spina bifida, which is when the baby fails to develop the membrane that protects the spinal cord. 

Scientists don’t know how much folate is needed to avoid catechin blocking more than what the mother needs, but most studies suggest that having more than 400 μg per day will negate the risk of spinal defects. 

Some women already have low folate levels, so drinking green tea may not alter their risk, and women who have levels well above 400 μg may maintain those levels even with tea drinking. It’s women with borderline levels who might face additional risk with tea. 

Another possible nutritional issue is iron. The tannins in matcha green tea can bind with iron and block up to 25% absorption. The same study found that limiting tea drinking to three cups per day was safe. Drinking close to mealtimes also helped with the absorption of iron (source: Pennsylvania State University). 

Caffeine level is another health consideration for matcha tea-drinking mothers. Matcha has more caffeine content than most other green teas because it processes the whole leaf until it’s a dense powder (source: HSN Blog). 

Caffeine can travel through the placenta, amniotic fluid, and the umbilical cord and thus possibly affect the baby (source: PLOS ONE). 

How Much Matcha Can You Drink When Pregnant?

When pregnant, you can drink moderate amounts of matcha, up to three cups. The point of the three cups is to make sure you aren’t intaking too much caffeine or blocking too many key nutrients.

Like the studies mentioned in the previous section, matcha is considered safe in moderate amounts. Scientists regarded moderate amounts to be less than four cups per day. Scientists determined that amount based on how much folate, iron interference, and caffeine matcha has. 

Keep in mind that matcha is more caffeine dense than most drinks. For comparison, matcha has around 18.9 to 44.4 mg of caffeine per gram of tea. Meanwhile, other green teas have 11 to 25 mg of caffeine per gram of tea, and coffee has 10 to 12 mg of caffeine per gram of coffee (source: Molecules).

The most popular medical advice for pregnant women is to limit caffeine intake to 200 mg (0.007 oz) per day. This limit allows for more cups of tea each day than the advice based on folate and iron absorption (source: Nutrients). 

Other supporters of this advice include the: 

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 
  • Mayo Clinic 
  • Britain’s National Health Service 

Is Matcha Good for Pregnant Women? Are There Benefits?

Despite a few drawbacks, green tea has many benefits. The antioxidants help with the inflammation pregnant women are at risk of and, in general, have shown some prevention of coronary disease, some cancers, stroke, and bone loss. Matcha, like other green teas, also has polyphenolic compounds. 

This class of molecules shares the same properties as antioxidants. These compounds include catechins, which has the one known drawback of blocking folate absorption (source: Scientific Reports). 

So even the negatives of the tea come with benefits. Healthy consumption is all about moderation. 

woman holding matcha green tea latte on the table

Matcha Powders, Lattes, and Other Products During Pregnancy

When considering other varieties of matcha tea consumption, keep in mind the proportions of a regular cup of tea. Matcha is often sold as a dense green powder, making it easy to customize doses to individual preferences. 

If you like adding lots of matcha powder, you may want to double-check how much it compares to the standard amount added to a cup and how each of your tea products adds up in a day. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, this is enough information on matcha green tea risks and benefits for you to know what is suitable for you and what you may want to discuss with your doctor.