Pregnancy Tea, a mixture of nourishing herbs that are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Some herbs, like nettle and alfalfa, are good well-rounded herbs that general wellness, and others, like red raspberry leaf, are particularly valuable for pregnant women. I've always enjoyed making herbal teas for my family, like this sleepy tea.
When I learned I was pregnant with our second child, I felt giddy and excited and stunned. More than anything, I wanted to nourish myself and strengthen my body for the rigors of bearing another child, particularly since there's a span of nearly eleven years between my first pregnancy and this one. I reached out to a team of local midwives, and in addition to mindful eating during pregnancy, they recommended drinking an infusion of red raspberry, nettle and a few other herbs daily during my pregnancy.
Pregnancy tea recipes typically rely on two herbs: nettle which serves as a good general tonic and red raspberry leaf which has been used in herbal medicine for pregnancy and birth for many mothers of many generations. Beyond these two, other herbs that are safe for pregnancy lend benefit, too: mineral-rich oatstraw and alfalfa, rosehips for their vitamin C and others. They each convey deep nourishment not only in the form of vitamins and minerals, but also in other active compounds.
Making Pregnancy Tea
Pregnancy tea isn't strictly an herbal tea; rather, it's an overnight infusion. Light in flavor, most herbal teas are steeped only for a brief period of time. But when you're after real and concrete nutrition from those herbs, you want to extract as much goodness from them as you can.
Overnight infusions, in which herbs are steeped for hours as opposed to a few minutes, do just that. The extended time allows the water to extract more nutrients from the herbs than a short steeping, as a result this pregnancy tea is fuller and stronger in flavor, and more nutrient-dense than a tea might by light steeping.
Buying Your Herbs from a Quality Source
As with anything, the quality of your source matters. For my part, that means ethically sourced and organically grown. Those of you who garden or who can forage might be able to source most of these herbs from your own backyard, dry them yourselves and make tea. You might also find a few of these herbs in a well-stocked health food store.
Red Raspberry Leaf
Red Raspberry Leaf boasts a celebrated place in traditional and folk medicine for its use as an herb for women, and, specifically, during pregnancy. Herbalists note that red raspberry leaf acts as a uterine tonic, and it is used in folk medicine to not only prepare the body for birth, but to shorten labors. Renowned herbalist, Susun Weed, notes that red raspberry leaf acts to tone the uterus so that, during labor, contractions work more effectively, making birth easier and faster (source).
A study undertaken in Australia seems to support this idea; moreover, women who consumed red raspberry leaf tea during their pregnancy were less likely to receive interventions like C-sections, forceps or vacuum-extraction births than women who did not consume the tea (source).
Another study found that women who consumed red raspberry leaf during pregnancy were less likely to have forceps-assisted birth; moreover, it seemed to shorten the amount of time they spent pushing by ten minutes (source). While researchers didn't find that ten minutes less time spent in the second stage of labor was a significant outcome, most pregnant women, myself included, might disagree - thankful for even ten more minutes of relief.
The use of red raspberry leaf in early pregnancy is debated among herbalists, with some recommending it and others not. As with consuming anything in your pregnancy, you should reach out to your care provider.
Nettle leaf is a tonic herb thought to strengthen and tone the entire system, and is particularly useful as a to support fertility in both men and women (source). In traditional herbal medicine, nettles are thought to ease leg cramps, and possibly ease the pain of childbirth (source).
Nettle is particularly rich in micronutrients like carotene, vitamin C, manganese, iron, calcium, zinc and chromium. As the mother passes anything she consumes to her baby both during pregnancy and breastfeeding, nettle will not only nourish her body, but also her growing baby. After birth, nettle is thought to promote an abundant milk supply (source).
In addition to nettle tea, you can use fresh nettles (be wary of their sting) in your cooking and reap their benefits there, as well. In springtime when young, wild nettles are plentiful, I make Nettle Omelets and Nettle Soup.
Oat straw was traditionally used in Europe as a tonic for health, beauty, and emotional resilience. It's rich in both calcium and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium work together in the body, with calcium stimulating muscles to contract and magnesium relaxing them. In this way, it's thought by herbalists and midwives that oatstraw can be particularly valuable for pregnant women.
Calcium tones the muscles and the cardiovascular system, and improving circulation both in the mother's body and, naturally, to her baby as well (read more here). Magnesium then, by contrast, helps those muscles to relax, easing cramps, restless legs, as well as improving sleep.
Alfalfa, like nettle, is a general restorative herb. In folk medicine, alfalfa is used to support thyroid health (source) and it's thought to ease morning sickness. Alfalfa, like nettle and red raspberry leaf and other green leafs, is also rich in vitamin K which supports healthy circulation and proper blood clotting. Low vitamin K levels is linked with bleeding and hemorrhage which may be why many midwives recommend optimizing your vitamin K levels during pregnancy, particularly in the weeks leading up to childbirth, with the primary recommendation beeing diet as well as herbs like alfalfa (read more here).
Alfalfa hay is also given to livestock to help them produce abundant milk, and is thought to convey the same benefits to human mothers as well.
Lemon Balm, Rose Hips and Rose Buds
I add both lemon balm and rose hips to my tea for their flavor more than anything else. This pregnancy tea tends to be inky and dark, owing both to the heavy use of leafy green herbs like nettle, alfalfa and raspberry leaf. Both lemon balm and rose hips, bright in flavor, aromatic and astringent, lighten the tea in a pleasant way.
Lemon balm gives this pregnancy tea delightful, mellow lemon-like flavor. In traditional, folk medicine, lemon balm is used for nervousness, digestive upset, and headaches (source).
Similarly, rose hips bring a light and pleasant tartness to the tea. Rosehips are rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C, and it's that vitamin C that works synergistically with iron to help your body better absorb that mineral. Similarly, rose buds bring pleasant floral notes and a lovely feminine energy to the tea.
Where to find organic herbs and spices
You can find many fresh herbs at your local grocery store; however, medicinal herbs can be harder to find locally. We recommend Starwest Botanicals because they stock a wide assortment of organic and ethically wildcrafted culinary and medicinal herbs.