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Can pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers drink yerba mate? We explain!

2023-11-13
Can pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers drink yerba mate? We explain!

Today we will try to answer a question that is quite often asked on yerba mate discussion groups, in emails and phone calls to our consultants. Is it safe to drink yerba mate during pregnancy and breastfeeding? We analyse the arguments “for” and “against” in our new article!

Summary:

  1. Yerba mate – a miracle plant from South America
  2. Is it safe to drink yerba mate while pregnant?
  3. Yerba mate and breastfeeding. Is it a healthy combination?
  4. Yerba mate during pregnancy and breastfeeding – what are the benefits?
  5. Yerba mate, breastfeeding and pregnancy – are there any contraindications?
  6. How to drink yerba mate during and just after pregnancy?

Yerba mate – a miracle plant from South America

Yerba mate is an infusion made from the dried leaves and twigs of Ilex paraguariensis, a plant that is found in the borderlands of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. It contains a fair amount of caffeine, causing more and more people to replace coffee with it. Yerba mate was discovered hundreds of years ago by the Guarani Indians. They noticed that after consuming the hitherto unknown plant, they had more energy, were more focused and did not feel tired or hungry. As it turns out, in addition to caffeine, yerba mate also contains a number of vitamins, minerals and other organic compounds that have an excellent effect on the human body. Among others, it is a source of vitamins A, B, C and E, zinc, potassium, calcium, silicon and magnesium, and also contains xanthines, saponins and polyphenols. A serving of yerba mate can therefore safely be called a "health elixir". But can anyone really drink it? How does it affect pregnant women? Can yerba mate be drunk while breastfeeding? Let's take a closer look.

Is it safe to drink yerba mate while pregnant?

The first issue we will address in today's post is the consumption of yerba mate by women who are expecting a baby. Is it safe to drink yerba mate during pregnancy? As is well known, pregnancy is a time when a woman has to be particularly careful about the consumption of various products. The matter is somewhat controversial mainly due to the high caffeine content of yerba mate. Scientific studies on pregnant women and unborn children are prohibited, so it is difficult to research the topic in detail. The available scientific publications were based only on surveys of mothers-to-be and new mothers. Experts are cautious, but give some recommendations that can be confidently followed. According to experts, the safe daily dose of caffeine during pregnancy is a maximum of 200 milligrams. If this is exceeded, a number of dangerous symptoms can result, the most significant of which is an increase in blood pressure with the risk of abnormal maturation of the placenta. Bearing in mind the possible consequences, let us recall that a 250 ml serving of yerba mate contains, at most, around 70-90 mg of caffeine. This is roughly twice as low as the upper limit. The conclusion? Pregnant women can reach for mate tea, but they should do so in moderation. Caution pays off. In reasonable quantities, mate can be an excellent remedy for chronic fatigue and feelings of lethargy. Many mothers-to-be will also appreciate the infusion's positive effects on intestinal peristalsis and its high antioxidant potential, which translates into a strengthened immune system. At the same time, we emphasise that all decisions regarding diet and its impact on health should be made in consultation with a doctor! His or her opinion is crucial in this situation.

Yerba mate and breastfeeding

Yerba mate and breastfeeding. Is it a healthy combination?

There is another issue directly related to the one discussed earlier in this text, which raises no less questions and doubts: after giving birth, is it possible to drink yerba mate while breastfeeding? Here, as in the previously discussed topic, access to scientific sources is limited due to the ethics of conducting research. However, there are some established facts and expert recommendations based on them. According to scientists, caffeine, whether it comes from coffee, energy drinks or yerba mate, passes into breast milk. As a result, a baby who consumes it may become hyperactive and have trouble sleeping and increased bowel movements. Researchers emphasise that such symptoms are not common and mainly refer to situations of extreme overdose, but caution is advised. Approximately 200 milligrams of caffeine per day, which corresponds to an average of 2-3 servings of the brew, is cited as the upper limit. The undesirable effects, however, lead most mothers to simply give up coffee or yerba mate during the breastfeeding period. The final decision on this is, of course, up to the mothers themselves, and if anyone is to influence this, it should ideally be a doctor. Consulting a professional is always a good idea!

Yerba mate during pregnancy and breastfeeding – what are the benefits?

If we already know that drinking yerba mate during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not prohibited, then, with caution and certain restrictions in mind, let's consider the benefits and whether it is worth reaching for a serving at all. Thanks to the caffeine it contains, yerba mate has an energising effect that can be beneficial to women during and just after pregnancy. Expectant and young mothers often feel tired and sluggish. Feelings of fatigue arise especially in the early stages of pregnancy, and later on, getting up frequently at night to see a crying baby does not help with rest either. Yerba mate, which contains a dose of caffeine, gives you a boost of energy and helps you regain your vitality and willpower. It can also happen that pregnant women are distracted and have difficulty concentrating. This has to do with the hormonal changes taking place in the body. A serving of mate will improve concentration and help you to focus better. Thanks to its vitamins and minerals, yerba mate also has a beneficial effect on the digestive system – relieving discomfort, improving intestinal peristalsis and supporting the digestive process. Pregnant women often suffer from nausea, flatulence or constipation. A serving of yerba mate can prove salutary in this case. On the other hand, yerba mate inhibits hunger, so it can effectively curb attacks of voracious appetite in pregnant women, and after the birth of the baby, it will perfectly complement the diet in order to lose weight. Another benefit of yerba mate infusion is its high antioxidant content. The main task of these compounds is to combat free radicals in the body, which translates into their anti-cancer effects. In addition, antioxidants improve the body's immunity, which is particularly important during pregnancy – the less susceptible the mother-to-be is to infections, the lower the risk for the baby.

Yerba mate, breastfeeding and pregnancy – are there any contraindications?

Yerba mate, just like coffee, tea or other caffeinated drinks, can affect everyone differently. Despite its many positive benefits, some side effects may occur after drinking it, such as spikes in blood pressure or gastrointestinal complaints. Yerba mate has a diuretic effect, which can also prove to be an undesirable in certain situations. All of these symptoms can occur in anyone – not only in pregnant and breastfeeding women, but it is these ladies who should be particularly careful, as these symptoms can negatively affect the growth of the baby. If you feel unwell or observe an adverse effect in yourself after drinking a portion of yerba mate, as a mother-to-be or young mother you should stop drinking the infusion as soon as possible and consult your doctor.

How to drink yerba mate during and just after pregnancy?

Nothing changes in the actual method of making the brew. Just as always, you need a mate gourd – a container in which you prepare yerba mate, and a bombilla which is used to filter the grounds. You pour hot, but not boiling, water at a temperature of about 70-80 °C into the dry leaves. However, we recommend that you slightly reduce the portion of the dry product to around 1-2 teaspoons and choose milder varieties of yerba mate such as the green Brazilian Verde Mate Green. We also remind you, once again, of moderation and caution not to overdo the caffeine!


Source of information:

  1. Wikipedia: Yerba mate.
  2. C.I. Heck, E.G. de Mejia, Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): a comprehensive review on chemistry, health implications, and technological considerations, J Food Sci, 2007.
  3. National Health Service.

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