Can Eating Dates Shorten Labor?

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Can eating date fruit shorten labor-science says it might
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Don’t you love when something really simple and inexpensive is actually the most effective option? Like when simple natural ingredients make the best laundry detergent? Or when children ditch the expensive toys and play for hours with a cardboard box or mixing bowl and spoon?

Can Eating Dates Shorten Labor?

I recently stumbled across a study that supports an old (mid)wives tale that eating dates (this type) might be the best way to naturally shorten labor and reduce the risk of induction.

Sound too good to be true?

I thought so too for years and wrote off the idea (partially because dates have always seemed too sweet to me and I didn’t want to eat them). Turns out, there is now some scientific evidence and anecdotal experience from many women that supports the ability of dates to shorten labor and contribute to a outcome.

The study, conducted in 2011 and published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has some really interesting results from comparing two groups of women: those who consumed six dates per day in the last four weeks of labor and those who did not.

I also found it fascinating that in my completely un-scientific poll of friends and readers, those who consumed dates in later pregnancy did in fact have shorter labors (including a few friends who craved them and had labors under 2 hours!). My friend Genevieve ate dates in the last month of her pregnancy and had a shorter labor (and there are quite a few comments on her post from other women with the same experience!).

As someone who tends to have labors more on the 24-28 hour side, it was enough to intrigue me… disgust of dates or not.

The Effect of Late Pregnancy Consumption of Date Fruit on Labor & Delivery

This study was very interesting, and not just because I’m a nerd who loves reading scientific studies. For any woman who has been through labor, this line from the study specifically should be intriguing:

The mean latent phase of the first stage of labour was shorter in women who consumed date fruit compared with the non-date fruit consumers (510?min vs 906?min, p?=?0.044).

In mom terms, that means that the 0-10 cm stage of labor was significantly shorter in woman who consumed dates compared to those who didn’t. In fact, those who consumed dates had an average 8.5 hours of first stage labor (0-10 cm) while those who didn’t had an average 15.1 hours of first stage labor.

Don’t get me wrong, compared to my usual 24+ hours, I’d gladly take either one, but for a woman in labor, 8.5 hours sounds a lot better than 15.1 hours!

Other points of interest from the study:

  • The women who ate dates were dilated an average of 3.5 cm upon admission, compared to 2 cm in those who didn’t
  • 96% of the women who consumed dates went into spontaneous labor and did not have to be induced (compared to only 79% of those who didn’t)
  • Only a small percentage of women who consumed dates needed pitocin (28%) vs those who didn’t consume dates (47%)
  • A smaller percentage of women who consumed dates had their membranes rupture in early labor compared to those who didn’t (17% vs 40%)

Overall, the study authors concluded that:

…the consumption of date fruit in the last 4 weeks before labour significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome.

What I’m Doing

That study and the stories I’ve read of dozens of women who tried eating dates in late stage pregnancy are enough to convince me to give dates a try this time. (These are the ones I’m ordering)

I’ll personally start sneaking 4-6 dates per day (six was the magic number in the study) into my meals starting at about 35 weeks (I tend to deliver at just over 39 weeks). Since I don’t love dates on their own, I’ll make some of these chia seed energy bars and some homemade almond milk to blend them in.

I’ll also be drinking my red raspberry leaf tea at that point and incorporating lots of natural movement like walking and squatting to help get my body aligned for labor.

I’ll let you all know in February how things go and if my labor was any shorter! Ever tried this? Did it work for you? Please share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


110 responses to “Can Eating Dates Shorten Labor?”

  1. Stephanie Avatar

    I’m just finding out about dates at 39 weeks. Anyone get a late start with benefit?? I’ve done red raspberry leaf tea for the last 3 weeks. Preggo with #4 , only 1 cm, and last labor from water breaking was 16 hrs. Thanks!

  2. Elana Rogers Avatar
    Elana Rogers

    How did your labor end up going? Did the dates work? I’m very interested to know!!

  3. Stef Avatar

    I ate 6-7 a day starting at 36 weeks. It was brutal! But my regular contractions started at 9pm, checked in at 11:50 dilated 9cm and I delivered at 12:24. I had read that it helps with postpartum bleeding as well and mine was already light by the time I left the hospital two days out. Highly recommend?

    1. Tina Avatar

      Oh my word…jealous! How wonderful!trying dates this time around

      1. Stef Avatar

        Just had my second in May…did the dates again from 36-39(had to stop as I was over them!)
        I also thought this baby would come early like the first did at that time. No such luck! Went two days late, but was 4 cm at my checkup and she said cervix was very soft so it’s sounds like they worked. I kept joking that I was afraid it would harden back up since I took a week off from the dates?

  4. Heather Avatar

    i was wondering, do the dates need to be raw to have these benefits? or can they be baked into a muffin and retain the same benefits? thanks!

  5. Teresa M Avatar
    Teresa M

    Hi Katie

    I personally believe that eating dates shortened my labour. I started to eat them daily around my third trimester.
    I remember arriving at the hospital around 7.30pm with my mum and sister and by 9pm my son was born. Within the active stages of labour and pushing baby out, it took around 45 minutes with just gas and air- I think I was the envy of many mums!
    Thanks for a great read and happy to hear of your successful yet emotional birth of your last child.


  6. Mayo Avatar

    Hi! I am due any day now! I am 2 cm dilated and have not experienced any pain. I’ve been having dates for the past four weeks and religiously drinking raspberry leaf tea, I feel great just very big!

  7. Neely Avatar

    I followed the date regime religiously (along with a few other things such as walking, yoga, sex ?, squats, and red rasp tea) and my labor was 2.5 hours with my first!
    I’m pregnant again and actually hoping for a longer labor through hypnobabies techniques this time — but will still eat my dates! 🙂

  8. Sarah Avatar

    Your links didn’t work. What type of dates should you eat? I’m up for giving it a try! How did it go for you?

  9. Noura Avatar

    I ate dates during my last pregnancy and had a complete labour and delivery in 3 hours and 45 mins! So I think this is very true! Also, I’m wondering if the link to the study still works? I wasn’t able to get to it. Thank you!

  10. Stephanie Avatar

    So was your labour shorter? I’m due in 3.5 weeks and just started eating the dates today. I’ve been drinking the Red Raspberry Leaf Tea since 32 weeks. My daughter was induced at 41+3 and born at 41+5 after 46 hour of labour and an emergency c-section. I’m looking for anything that could possibly help me avoid another c-section.

  11. Pipud Avatar

    My first labor was 20 hours long. My second was an induction and lasted 9 hours with a heavy dose of meds to speed up delivery due to health concerns. Both were born 40 weeks and 1 day. Never ate a dathe. My third child I started eating dates i bought from the grocery store at 36 weeks… 6 every day. 3 in the morning and 3 at night. They were disgusting! I was completely surprised to have my water break spontaneously at 38 weeks and 6 days. My labor was so easy! It last start to finish just 6 hours!!!!

    I’m pregnant with my fourth and 36 weeks tomorrow, so I have been eating 2 to 3 dates a day for a few months now. I will eat 6 a day starting tomorrow.
    Opinion: i don’t like the dates at the grocery store. I found the most delicious dates on amazon called The Date Lady dates. They melt in your mouth and taste like candy!!!!!

    Needless to say, I’m a believer. Good luck ladies!

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