Can I Drink Kombucha While Pregnant?

Photo illustration of a woman drinking kombucha

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You’ve been drinking kombucha for years. You love the fizzy, zingy experience of drinking it. It gives you a nice caffeine boost, and you’ve heard that it’s great for your gut health.

Or maybe you’ve heard about the many purported health benefits of kombucha and you’re wondering if it might be a good idea to start drinking it now. Perhaps kombucha is one of your weird pregnancy cravings, and you are wondering if it’s okay to satisfy that urge.

Unfortunately, kombucha is not something that should be consumed during pregnancy, even in moderation. The main reason kombucha is contraindicated in pregnancy is because of its alcohol content, and all alcohol consumption should be avoided by people who are pregnant. Additionally, kombucha is often not pasteurized and may contain bacteria that are harmful during pregnancy.

Learn more about why you should pass on kombucha until after you deliver your little one.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea that originated in China in about 220 B.C. Most kombucha teas are made with black, green, or oolong tea. The tea is combined with sugar as well as a bacterial and yeast culture known as symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). SCOBY is a balance of bacteria and yeast that allows for a perfect balance of fermentation. After this, the tea is left to ferment for 7-10 days.

Over the past few years, kombucha has become widely popular in America because of its possible health benefits. Because kombucha is fermented, it’s considered a probiotic and is thought to contain bacteria and yeast that can deliver benefits to the gut.

Much of the kombucha research is not conducted with humans. So, while you will likely see claims that drinking kombucha can help with a range of things from reducing blood pressure to improving liver function, more thorough research is still needed.

Commercially sold kombucha teas are sometimes pasteurized, while home brewed kombucha generally is not. Commercially produced kombucha is also tested to ensure stable pH and alcohol levels.

Some commercially sold kombucha teas are not pasteurized either, especially if they are labeled “raw” kombucha. Kombucha has naturally occurring alcohol content as a result of the fermentation process.

Drinking Kombucha During Pregnancy

While kombucha may have certain health benefits, it’s contraindicated during pregnancy mostly because of the fact that kombucha contains alcohol, which is never recommended during pregnancy, even in small amounts.

Additionally, unpasteurized kombucha may have harmful bacteria, such as listeria, which is also a key concern for pregnancy. The caffeine content of kombucha can also be an issue if large amounts of it are consumed.

Catha Fischer, MD, director of fertility preservation at Spring Fertility, says that drinking anything containing alcohol and consuming unpasteurized foods are “no’s” for pregnant individuals, which is why she advises against drinking kombucha during pregnancy.

This guidance about alcohol and unpasteurized food consumption is also echoed by the American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as well as the CDC.

Rinku Mehta, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and OB-GYN at Dallas IVF, agrees, and also advises against drinking kombucha. “Kombucha consumption is not recommended in pregnant women since the risks outweigh any potential benefits,” she shares.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about drinking kombucha while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

Many of the health concerns about drinking kombucha during pregnancy concern the possible harm it can cause to your baby.

As part of the fermentation process, kombucha naturally has alcohol in it. As the CDC explains, consuming any amount of alcohol during pregnancy can cause a myriad of health and behavioral issues for developing babies, including abnormal facial issues and learning disabilities.

Secondly, as Dr. Fischer explains, consuming unpasteurized juices or ciders during pregnancy, including kombucha, can create an increased risk during pregnancy. Similar to soft cheeses, kombucha can contain bacteria such as Listeria and E. coli. Not only can these make you sick, says Dr. Fisher, but they can cause your baby to be born prematurely, or cause you to lose your baby.  

ACOG explains that newborns born with Listeria (listeriosis) can have blood or brain infections. The condition can cause other health problems for your baby, including paralysis, seizures, loss of vision, and intellectual disabilities.

Why You Should Not Drink Kombucha While Pregnant

If you were a regular kombucha drinker before pregnancy, opting for a sparkling water with juice during pregnancy can provide the fizzy flavorful quality. Dr. Fischer says that while there may be some health benefits to expectant parents in consuming kombucha, when it comes down to it, the potential risks are too serious to recommend it.

“Everything in pregnancy is really a balance of what you are comfortable with,” says Dr. Fischer. When it comes to kombucha, Dr. Fischer feels that the combination of dangers, including alcohol content and bacterial contamination, make kombucha a risky substance to consume.

“It is impossible to quantify the risk, other than to say it’s low, but still there is a risk,” says Dr. Fischer.

Risks of Drinking Kombucha While Pregnant

Again, in general, the guidance from healthcare providers is that the risks of drinking kombucha while pregnant do not outweigh the benefits. Therefore, it is safest to skip kombucha during pregnancy. Let’s review what some of these risks are.

Alcohol Consumption

According to an FDA investigation, alcohol content in kombucha can range from 0.7% to 1.3%. This is on the lower end of the spectrum, but all medical organizations recommend limiting all alcohol during pregnancy because of potential harm to the developing fetus.

Bacterial Contamination

While some kombucha on the market may be pasteurized, this is often the exception rather than the rule, and any home brewed kombucha will likely be unpasteurized. Unpasteurized products can include potentially harmful bacteria, like E. coli and Listeria, and should be avoided during pregnancy.

“Unpasteurized products can harbor pathogenic bacteria or microbial spores that would be dangerous in a pregnant woman and to the fetus,” says Dr. Mehta.

Caffeine Consumption

Overdoing caffeine consumption is an unlikely risk with kombucha. Most major commercial kombucha companies have between 8 milligrams and 14 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces.

However, this caffeine still needs to be counted in the daily total. And, if someone was drinking more than 8 ounces of kombucha a day in addition to tea and coffee, they may exceed the caffeine recommendations. ACOG recommends that people who are pregnant consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day because of the potential risk of miscarriage or preterm delivery.

Health Risks For the Pregnant Parent

Most of the potential health risks of consuming kombucha during pregnancy are related to the alcohol content and the fact that unpasteurized kombucha continues to ferment after its bottled. When this happens, it potentially increases the alcohol content to more than the allowed amount (less than 0.5%). There is also some risk of dangerous bacterial contamination, mostly from improper brewing.

Although the safety of kombucha during pregnancy needs to be studied more thoroughly, Dr. Mehta cites some serious health outcomes associated with kombucha that make her reluctant to recommend it to pregnant parents. This includes reports of fatal metabolic acidosis after consuming kombucha, as well as reports of liver toxicity. Any potentially deadly or serious health outcomes should be avoided whenever possible, especially when you are pregnant.

When Can I Resume Drinking Kombucha?

It is safe to start drinking kombucha again after your baby is born, says Dr. Fischer. However, if you are nursing, you may need to take precautions.

The alcohol content in kombucha may mean that you will need to limit how much kombucha you drink, or time your nursing sessions around its consumption. Limited amounts of caffeine (like what is found in kombucha) are usually okay while breastfeeding, but large amounts can make your baby extra wakeful or fussy.

Speak to a healthcare provider or lactation consultant if you have further questions about drinking kombucha while breastfeeding.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

You may be surprised to learn that something with so many potential health benefits is actually something you need to completely avoid while pregnant. Luckily, when it comes to the health benefits of kombucha, there are several healthy and pregnancy-safe alternatives.

Yogurt or Kefir

Dr. Mehta says that kefir or yogurt with live and active cultures is a great alternative to kombucha and provides a variety of potentially helpful bacteria and yeast. Yogurt and kefir have many of the same probiotic components and healthy gut bacteria as kombucha, but without the potential harms that unpasteurized foods do. Additionally, yogurt contains calcium and protein and some brands even contain vitamin D.

Sparkling Water

Some regular kombucha drinkers opt for a sparkling water with juice during pregnancy. This combination provides the fizzy flavorful quality they may be looking for. Plus, it is much safer than drinking kombucha.

Probiotic Supplements

Dr. Fischer says that if you are looking to add healthy bacteria into your diet during pregnancy, you should pick a probiotic supplement rather than consuming kombucha. Dr. Fischer does advise, though, that there isn’t a lot of research about probiotics and pregnancy. While most products are safe, some might not be.

It’s best to discuss an individual probiotic product you are considering taking with a healthcare provider.

Other Fermented Foods

Not all fermented foods are a problem during pregnancy. Pickles are actually fermented and definitely a favorite during pregnancy! Dr. Mehta says that eating kimchi is another possible way to safely consume fermented foods while pregnant. The key is to pick foods that you know are pasteurized and prepared and handled safely.

Talk to a healthcare provider if there is a particular fermented food you’d like to add to your pregnancy diet.

A Word From Verywell

It can be a bummer when you find out a favorite food or drink is on the “no” list during pregnancy. If popping open a fresh bottle of kombucha was part of your wellness routine or just something you looked forward to each day, you may feel disappointed to learn that you have to give it up for the next nine months.

But the risk of alcohol consumption, along with the potential for bacterial contamination, is too high for experts to recommend consuming it. If you have any further questions about drinking kombucha during pregnancy, you should speak to a healthcare provider. They can discuss precautions with you, as well as any safe alternatives.

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10 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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