One of the tricky parts of pregnancy is understanding what food and drinks you're not allowed to have, whether it's for the safety of your baby or your own overall health. Some of these things you have to forgo while pregnant are a given — alcohol and sushi are at the top of the list of what goes first. Some of the other things you might have to give up aren't as obvious, but it's important to be equipped with all this knowledge so you can keep yourself and baby healthy. Something you may not have considered problematic while pregnant is kombucha. But if you love this fermented beverage, you'll inevitably find yourself asking, Can you drink kombucha while pregnant? And, well, you might be surprised by what you find out.
Because while healthy, it is (alas) yet another thing that's best to avoid. Scary Mommy spoke with a doctor to find out exactly why.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is quite literally made from bacteria, as it's a fermented drink. You'll see it lining the refrigerator shelves in myriad flavors at your local grocery stores. According to the Mayo Clinic, kombucha is a colony of bacteria and yeast added to sugar and tea. Once these are all combined, it results in a vinegar — which is why kombucha has such a strong flavor — plus some gut-healthy vitamins. Despite many kombucha drinks not actually tasting like tea, kombucha is a tea drink made with black or green tea. It's just that plenty of kombucha manufacturers add other flavors that largely mask any tea flavor.
You can make your own kombucha at home, too, if you're looking for a more natural drink. You just need a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), which is a mother culture that starts the kombucha process. It's possible to make your own SCOBY, but they're not easy to make — and if not done correctly, it could end up making you sick if you make kombucha out of it. Purchasing it from a professional is a better bet for newbie kombucha brewers. However, you should put a pause on that hobby during pregnancy. Here's why.
Can you drink kombucha while pregnant?
If you've picked up a bottle of kombucha at the store recently, you might have noticed a note on the label advising you not to drink it if you're pregnant. "It's always a high-risk situation for a company to recommend its products for pregnant women," says Felice Gersh, MD, OB/GYN and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, in Irvine, CA, and the author of Menopause: 50 Things You Need to Know. "Advising against their use in pregnant women is always the safest position for any company to take. The theoretical concern is that they will cause an infection in the pregnant woman, as there is live bacteria in it and pregnancy is a time when women's immune systems are somewhat compromised."
It's also worth noting that the fermentation process of the kombucha produces minimal alcohol, which is obviously not advised for pregnant people. The tea present in the kombucha also has minimal caffeine, another substance that pregnant women are generally advised to scale back on. However, as Dr. Gersh notes, there are no firm studies or research on kombucha's effects on pregnant people. She also points out that you shouldn't be concerned if you are currently pregnant and have had some kombucha. There's no need for panic — just probably don't have any more until you give birth.
When can you resume drinking kombucha?
Happily, you can go back to drinking kombucha as soon as you're no longer pregnant, according to Dr. Gersh. There's little to no concern with breastfeeding, though you can always check with your own health care provider if you want personalized advice based on your medical history and lifestyle.
Felice Gersh, MD, OB/GYN and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, in Irvine, CA, and the author of Menopause: 50 Things You Need to Know.