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!
Discussion (110 Comments)
Worked for me
First labor start to finish 36 hours
Second 18 hours
Third 45 minutes. Third, i arrived at the hospital not in labor for a check up and i was 8cm already! Only thing I changed was eating dates every day from 30 weeks after reading about how it could shorten delivery time.
Wow, that is a crazy story! I would love to have received awesome news like being 8 cm without feeling contractions. I can’t even imagine!
I tried it. Didn’t work and was much harder than I thought to consume so many dates due to heartburn. The really aggravated it. good luck!
This made me giggle. However I just forwarded it onto 4 pregnant friends. Now I wanna be pregnant just to try it out 😉
I don’t love dates, but I love shorter labor! I had my 4th child this summer, and I think all the red raspberry leaf tea I drank contributed to his 4 hour birthing time. (1st was a c-section, #2 was 48hr VBAC, and #3 was 8hr VBAC.) if I’m blessed to have a 5th, I’m definitely trying dates, too. Thanks!
So, as you say to start eating dates 4 weeks before does that mean they should be avoided earlier in the pregnancy or is that just a good time to build enough benefits from them? I may not have long labors but any shortening of time is awesome!
My last pregnancy I read that taking high doses of vitamin c strengthened the uterus, muscles, ligaments…My main reason for trying that was I had hemorrhaged three times before and a study was cited to say that none of the women on vitamin c did. It may be something worth investigating more as my fourth labor was shorter, less painful and NO bleeding at all! And the last trimester was not nearly as uncomfortable…for whatever its worth:-)
I made the mistake of beginning to eat dates as soon as I hit my third tri (with my third child) at 32 weeks I was 80% effaced and 2cms dilated and had to be put of bed rest because they were afraid my mega soft cervix was going to continue dilating and my baby wouldn’t make it to term. I’m almost 33 weeks now and am taking each day as I can but I wouldn’t recommend eating the dates BEFORE you are term. In my other pregnancies I was never preterm and never softened/dilated before labor began and I also didn’t eat the dates with them. So just be careful.
Your pregnant? Wow congrats how exciting. My sister gave birth this past August and her labor was way shorter then her first born, she did eat dates throughout her pregnancy.
I believe that all natural food has it’s own power! I was told at one point of my life…after I had my daughter that drinking cinnamon tea as soon as your real labor pains start it will help with continual labor and you can’t have no epidural or any induced medicines. I tried this with my daughter with her 1st and only pregnancy and she had her baby within 4 hours! The funny thing is that the doctor had told us that it would take about 24 hours and insisted in sending us home. I asked if we can stay a little longer and he agreed within 3 hours she had the baby naturally! Right after my beautiful grandson was born, My dear daughter told me: “Mom, I can have another baby!” I was in tears because she didn’t suffer what most women do nowadays.
Just a note: We ended up going to another doctor, because her previous doctor insisted that she would need a c-section. And we had a great doctor at a hospital near our home with nurse/midwifes and a very natural & awesome experience!
great info – can it be cinnamon in any form or does it need to be tea?
I love dates and I’m due in April! You can let me know in Feb if I should go for it!
Lol.. I’ll keep you posted!
Hey I am not sure if i missed a post where you updated us. But how was your experince with dates? Did you feel it helped in anyway?
I answer it in detail here 🙂
I had 8h stage one and pushed for 30min and baby made it to this world. I ate my dates 5week prior and I love dates. Do I think they helped I would say so I had easy delivery for my first baby? and not to mention my Doctor thought I was lucky to deliver so fast. I was 33yrs with first baby and one on the way now at my 35 will still do my 5-6 dates a day. Good luck ladies!
I loved dates in late labor, since I was trying for a VBAC and wanted things to move quickly! I also ate a ton of pineapple to help effacement… and because it’s delicious. Definitely recommend both!
I’d not heard about pineapple! This weeks grocery list is getting yummier by the minute!
Did nothing for me. After reading articles & studies on this, I diligently consumed 6-8 dates/day in my last trimester (along w drinking red raspberry tea), at the advice of my midwife (which resulted in lots of extra & unnecessary $$ spent). Nevertheless, had a painful 10 hr labor which resulted in a cesection.
I’m sorry your birth didn’t go as planned. My first was a c-section and it can be really traumatic in a lot of ways. I did Hypnobabies for my 3rd and it was a total game changer.
Did you do the home study or in person classes?
I did the in person class for my 3rd birth and it was wonderful!!! My teacher was an amazing woman and I learned so much about birth and my body. Then for my 4th birth, I did the home study. But I think it’s really necessary to do the class at least once to really grasp the material. I highly recommend Hypnobabies. It’s not something I thought I’d ever try but I saw my sister use it with great success and that changed my mind. It just totally changed my mentality about childbirth
Thank you!! I definitely plan on it but was debating about in person classes vs home study. The classes are 2hrs away unfortunately!
Some would consider 10 hr labor somewhat short?
No Kidding! My first was 45 hours – I will gladly take anything under 30 this time 🙂 Just ate 12 dates .. and plan to every single day these last weeks.
But, she had to have a c-section. More than likely an emergency c-section—which is way worse than a planned c-section. No one wants one of those for sure!