Matcha offers many health benefits, such as abundant antioxidants and vitamins, but is it safe for pregnant women, both during and after pregnancy?
Generally, yes, it’s “safe,” (a subjective term, of course) for pregnant women to have up to 2 servings/cups of matcha per day. And even twice that (or more, depending on the amount) isn’t likely to have a negative effect.
The main concern about matcha for pregnant women is the caffeine content. Extremely high amounts of caffeine during pregnancy can be harmful. There are also concerns about iron. Moderation is the key, and there are plenty of benefits as well. It helps to know the specific things going on when a pregnant woman drinks matcha.
- Benefits of matcha while pregnant
- How does caffeine in matcha affect pregnant women?
- What about folate and iron in matcha related to pregnancy?
Benefits of matcha while pregnant
Matcha tea is beneficial for expecting mothers who drink it in moderation. It has few or any side effects and is generally milder than coffee.
The tea contains caffeine that stimulates brain waves. These waves stimulate the hormones that can aid relaxation.
Matcha’s rich in antioxidants – catechins, that reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia (extremely high blood pressure during pregnancy). Catechins also help lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). This, to some degree, may alleviate the risk of heart attack and stroke in pregnant women.
Matcha is also packed with many vitamins, including B1, B2, and B6, and vitamin C. It even offers some protein and folate. These are vital nutrients in the baby’s growth.
Pregnant women often experience inflammation during pregnancy. One study found that heightened inflammation in pregnant females increases the risk of brain development problems in newborns. The antioxidants in matcha can help reduce inflammation.
Matcha tea has L-theanine, an amino acid that helps increase alertness without feeling jittery.
There may even be skin benefits. Breakouts and acne are common problems faced by expectant women because of the hormonal changes during pregnancy. The antioxidants present in matcha tea help with these skin problems. They’re not a cure, of course, but there are benefits.
How does caffeine in matcha affect pregnant women?
The recommended daily intake of caffeine for expecting mothers is less than 200 mg. And matcha has pretty high caffeine levels. But it’s not that simple.
Caffeine in large quantities can potentially be more harmful during pregnancy. Daily caffeine consumption of more than 300 mg is possibly associated with an advance in gestational age (how far along the pregnancy is) at birth.
This is because caffeine freely crosses the placenta of the fetus. One study reported that caffeine can be found in the umbilical cord, amniotic fluid, urine, and plasma of fetuses and finds its way into the baby’s blood circulation.
As noted above, matcha powder is rich in caffeine, partly because it’s the powdered version of the entire green tea leaf, rather than water dripped through it. Pregnant women do need to take care with their caffeine intake.
Matcha is not the only caffeine source for pregnant women. An expectant mother could be consuming many other caffeine-containing foods and beverages, like chocolate (cacao), guarana, tea, coffee, and soft drinks/soda.
So, “everything in moderation” works well here. Pregnant women can get matcha’s health benefits by not overdoing it. Too much caffeine during pregnancy can result in some dangerous conditions, such as low birth weight or even miscarriages. That alone is alarming, but it’s not simple. Consult with your doctor for specifics and to ease your worries.
What about folate and iron in matcha related to pregnancy?
Matcha may play some minor role in interrupting absorption of folate and iron, which are important nutrients for pregnant women.
Folate absorption, matcha, and pregnancy
Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is very important for pregnant women because it helps prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine, such as neural tube defects (NTDs). Inadequate levels may be a cause for concern.
Regular folic acid supplementation is therefore recommended in pregnancy. This is where folic acid has some connection with matcha tea.
A study did report that too much matcha reduces the bioavailability of folic acid and elevates the risk of having an NTD-affected pregnancy. To be safe, expecting mothers can drink 2 cups of matcha tea a day.
Again, ask your doctor if you have any concerns. Green tea and matcha are regularly consumed in many parts of the world and with no problems at all.
Iron absorption, matcha, and pregnancy
Expecting women need iron for transporting adequate oxygen to the unborn baby. Low iron levels can have a negative effect on the fetus as well as the mother.
Matcha tea contains tannins that bind with iron, specifically non-heme iron. These tannins hinder the absorption of iron by 25%. That said, limiting intake to 3 or fewer cups of matcha tea by pregnant women (710 ml) per day is likely a safe range in this regard.
Also, pregnant women should drink matcha tea 30–45 minutes before or after meals. Doing so makes it less likely to impact the body’s ability to absorb iron from the iron-rich food at mealtimes.
What about matcha drinks like matcha lattes and “frappucinos” for pregnant women?
Cravings and pregnancy go hand in hand. And of course, many non-pregnant women (and men!) crave a matcha latte or even a big whipped-cream-topped frappucino every now and then.
The good news is, yes. in most cases, matcha lattes and frappucinos are more or less safe as far as matcha is concerned. That’s because of their low matcha content and therefore their lower caffeine content.
The matcha here isn’t as much of an issue as the sugar and fat. When matcha’s used as a flavoring, a lower-grade matcha is used, and less of it. So comparing a sweet matcha latte with a straight cup of home-whisked matcha is like comparing coffee ice cream with freshly brewed black coffee.
A “venti” (really big!) size of each of one of these sweetened beverages may have 16–17 grams of fat and around 240–500 calories. It depends on the type of milk, amount of sweetener, and addition of empty calories like from whipped cream and syrup.
So although matcha lattes and frappucinos are a good option with regard to caffeine intake, they’re maybe not such a good option for calorie and fat intake.
How much matcha is safe when you’re pregnant?
Matcha has around 18.9–44.4 mg/g caffeine. For comparison, regular green tea ranges about 11–25 mg/g, and coffee about 10–12 mg/g. The difference is the amount used.
Matcha’s not the only caffeine-rich beverage a pregnant woman might be drinking. Coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, etc. all play a part in the daily intake. And while it’s usually not necessary to totally avoid consuming caffeine-rich beverages entirely during pregnancy, an expectant woman needs to be mindful of how much caffeine they’re consuming and keep the levels reasonable.
Health experts advise pregnant women to consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine daily, as mentioned above and for the reasons mentioned above. That being said, 3-4 cups of matcha tea every day will likely do no harm to a pregnant woman. Naturally, the amount of matcha and the caffeine content of the powder you’re using also affects the caffeine load.
If in doubt, consult with your physician.
If you drink high-quality Japanese (and perhaps USDA-approved U.S.) matcha, organics really offer little safety over non-organics. For more information on this topic, read our comparison article on organic matcha.
Is matcha “safer” than coffee during pregnancy?
Both matcha and coffee are safe during pregnancy if consumed in moderation. Apart from differences in their caffeine content, the beverages are different in terms of the benefits/side effects they offer to a pregnant woman.
Matcha can promote dental health and oral hygiene whereas coffee is acidic and can erode tooth enamel in pregnant women.
While both beverages contain high levels of antioxidants beneficial for pregnant women, matcha tea offers a calming effect thanks to its high theanine content and reduces anxiety whereas coffee can cause jitters (coffee could stimulate your “fight or flight” response).
Matcha also offers more nutrients and health benefits to pregnant women. So, we can reasonably say matcha is safer in comparison to coffee during pregnancy.
The bottom line is that matcha can be safe and even quite beneficial during pregnancy. Even the expecting dad may enjoy a few cups to regain his focus. If in doubt, ask your doctor.
*This article was scientifically reviewed by Amita Fotedar, Ph.D.