Can raspberry leaf tea and dates really ease childbirth? What experts say about viral tips for expecting moms

Viral videos are recommending red raspberry leaf tea and dates in pregnancy — but is it safe?

Welcome to Ask A Dietitian. It's a series where Yahoo Canada digs into food trends and popular nutrition questions with registered dietitian Abbey Sharp.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Abbey Sharp gives us the scoop on raspberry leaf tea, dates and other foods that people have said made their birth easier — in the Ask A Dietitian series. (via Canva)
Abbey Sharp gives us the scoop on raspberry leaf tea, dates and other foods that people have said made their birth easier — in the Ask A Dietitian series. (via Canva)

On TikTok, a platform bustling with the latest wellness trends, women have been sharing a tip for expectant mothers: drinking raspberry leaf tea and eating dates might ease the childbirth process.

TikToker Isabella (@elevenesthetician), for example, shared a video earlier this year of herself in a hospital bed moments after giving birth. "When everyone said the red raspberry tea wouldn't work but I pushed my baby out in 20 mins (with) minimal tears," she wrote on-screen.

The video has received more than 336,000 views with many in the comments wondering when they should start taking it to see these alleged benefits.

Registered dietitian Abbey Sharp, who is also an IVF mom with birth trauma, told Yahoo Canada that as she was hoping for a smooth delivery, these natural remedies frequently popped up. "I was definitely down the rabbit hole when it came to everything (about) pregnancy, fertility, birth, and this was definitely something that came up," Sharp recalled.

As many turn to these traditional — and trending — practices, it raises the question: what does the science actually say about natural childbirth aides? Read on to find out whether they really work, and what the safest way to use them is.

Does raspberry leaf tea make childbirth easier?

Raspberry tea with berry fruit on wooden table background. Top view. Raspberry tea is said to make birthing easier, with many new moms on social media promising its benefits in the late stage of pregnancy. (Getty)
Raspberry tea is said to make birthing easier, with many new moms on social media promising its benefits in the late stage of pregnancy. (Getty)

Raspberry leaf tea, often lauded for its potential to shorten labor, is a mixed bag in scientific circles. While hopeful mothers swear by its efficacy, actual evidence is lacking. "We actually haven't seen any significant differences in labor length when consuming red raspberry leaf tea," Sharp explained.

However, some studies suggest it might reduce the need for birth interventions like forceps or cesarean sections, and that it may help to reduce pre and post-term gestation.

"Red raspberry leaf tea can have a bit of a laxative effect on some people, which might be helpful for when you're pregnant and you're experiencing constipation," Sharp added.

Sharp also mentioned a caveat: "There was one study that found that it actually increased cesarean section rates in those who use the tea. But this was an observational study, and it was also retrospective."

How to use it

The recommended approach to consuming raspberry leaf tea is a conservative one because of its varied effects and the lack of evidence. Sharp noted, "We don't really have defined standards for this because the research has been so mixed."

The general advice from midwives is to be cautious, suggesting intake closer to the due date to avoid potential complications. "The truth is, we don't really know the best time to consume it," Sharp said.

Does eating dates make childbirth easier?

Raw Organic Medjool Dates Ready to Eat
Raw Organic Medjool Dates Ready to Eat

In contrast to the lack of evidence around raspberry leaf tea, dates hold more promise, Sharp said. She also turned to dates during her own pregnancy.

"It's basically believed that the date fruit affects oxytocin receptors, which can then help the uterine muscles that respond to your own oxytocin, resulting in more like stronger, more effective uterine contractions," Sharp explained.

A systematic review looking at several trials found that women who ate dates experienced shorter early labor phases and exhibited better cervical dilation. "And in a meta-analysis of eight randomized control trials, they found that it reduced the length of your pregnancy when women started eating dates at 37 weeks," Sharp added.

How to use them

Integrating dates into your diet from around 36 to 37 weeks could be beneficial. It's recommended to eat around 70 to 100 grams of dates per day (three to four Medjool dates, or six to 10 of smaller pitted dates). Sharp added they're a great source of energy, and a good thing to pack in your labour bag.

She cautioned, however, "because dates are so high in sugars, definitely, you want to speak to your healthcare provider before eating a ton of dates, especially if you are concerned about your blood sugars during pregnancy."

Is it safe to use childbirth aides? What to know about other foods

While the remedies like raspberry leaf tea and dates offer a glimmer of hope for easing childbirth, Sharp stressed the importance of talking to your healthcare provider. "Before starting anything, any kind of supplement or any kind of specific diet routine, I would always run it by your midwife or your OB just to make sure that it's safe for you and your pregnancy," she advised.

Other foods

Beyond raspberry leaf tea and dates, other traditional methods like castor oil, spicy foods and pineapple are occasionally tried by expectant mothers, though they come with their own set of risks and minimal scientific evidence.

"Castor oil is probably the one that has the most strong research to support its use for inducing labor, but it's not without its risks," Sharp pointed out, referring to the gastrointestinal distress it can cause.

Ultimately, while the appeal of a natural and easier labor is compelling, Sharp said these aren't fool-proof methods and might not work for everyone.

"These tiny little tweaks are probably not going to make the difference between a 40-hour labor and like coughing a few times and baby popping out. But if it helps to make a difference to your mindset, I think you know it's worth trying."

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